The Canadian Museum of History in Gatineau, Que. is inviting the public to take a ride back in time with a new collection of horse-drawn carriages from the 18th, 19th and 20th centuries. The exhibition, titled Horse Power, explores the history of horse-drawn vehicles in Quebec from 1770 to 1950, showcasing the carriages’ creators and the famous figures they transported. The 18 exquisite carriages and sleighs on display were hand-selected from the vast collection of Paul Bienvenu, which was donated to Quebec City’s Musées de la civilisation in 2011. Among them are a Hansom Cab reported to have appeared in a Hollywood film starring Ginger Rogers and Fred Astaire, a graceful sleigh that was loaned to four governors general of Canada, including Lord Stanley of Preston, and a landau originally commissioned by the Archbishop of Quebec. At a preview of the exhibit on March 23rd, Bienvenu spoke of a lifelong love of horses, which sparked his interest in carriages in the 1960s. Through strategic acquisitions and loving restoration, Bienvenu amassed the largest and finest collection of carriages in North America – 213 vehicles in all. “The museum is pleased to present this unique collection of horse-drawn vehicles, an important record of a not-so-distant past,” said Jean-Marc Blais, director general of the Canadian Museum of History. Horse Power opens March 24th and will be on display until April 17, 2017.
Carriage collector Paul Bienvenu speaks at a preview of the new exhibit Horse Power at the Canadian Museum of History on March 23rd. (Photo: Alexandra Pope)
A “park drag” coach built by Rothschild & fils in Paris, France in the late 1800s. Coaches like this were used for country and racetrack outings and equipped with a built-in picnic box that doubled as a table. (Photo: Alexandra Pope)
Wooden signs advertising carriage sales and repair and blacksmithing services. Horse-drawn vehicles shared the road with automobiles from about 1915 to 1950, as indicated by the sign for Léo Lafond’s shop. (Photo: Alexandra Pope)
A teddy bear dating from the early 1900s sits on the bench of a three-seat Phaeton. Phaetons were dubbed “station wagons” as they were often used to carry people and their belongings to and from railway stations. (Photo: Alexandra Pope)
An elegant, highly ornamented carriole built by Wilbrod Jacob in Quebec circa 1935. (Photo: Alexandra Pope)
A former carousel horse that graced the storefront of Jos. Nadeau, cobbler and saddler, in Sainte-Anne-de-Beaupré, from 1945 to 1970. (Photo: Alexandra Pope)