There’s a short, humorous scene in my soon-to-be-released Time Travel novella that mentions a “courting buggy.” Check it out:
Pleased wasn’t the word for how Hiram’s visits struck me. Annoyed was more like it. Hiram had gotten in the habit of “stopping by for a chat” two or three times a week. Sometimes on the pretext of buying eggs, often with no pretext at all. He’d made no bones about his interest in me, eyes sweeping me from head to feet and lingering a tad too long in between. The last time he stopped by he’d dropped the news he was thinking about buying a fine courting buggy. I’d hastily changed the subject.
The arrival of fresh female DNA was a rare enough occurrence in Carson Valley to draw the immediate attention of the bachelor population. This was, after all, jokingly referred to as ‘cousin valley.’ And for good reason. Intermarriage between the scattered original pioneer families had sadly truncated the marriage pool. Whether it was the latest schoolmarm from Back East or a recent emigrant, any new personage in skirts was quickly surrounded by a swarm of would-be suitors. Just my luck, it had been tall, lanky Hiram Johnson who had spotted me first and was apparently trying to stake his claim.
“Hiram’s good-looking enough, I suppose, but he’s not my cup of tea,” I assured Mrs. Harrison firmly. “But maybe I could prevail upon him to drive you home.” A courtesy with the added benefit of dispatching Hiram as well.
So what did courting and buggies had to do with each other in Victorian times (and today, in Amish culture)? Here’s the scoop:
Unlike larger buggies built to carry four or more passengers, or utilitarian freight wagons, a courting buggy was a small, light affair equipped with only a single seat, built for two. Think “hot-rod sports car” rather than utility van or truck.
The seating may have been cozy, but there was still little privacy inside a courting buggy. They typically featured no sides or roof, an open-to-the-world design which kept canoodling to a minimum.
As the name implies, a young man with marriage on his mind might launch his matrimonial campaign with the purchase of a courting buggy. It not only showed he was doing well enough to afford the expense, but provided a fine excuse to spend time alone with the object of his affections by “going for a drive.” Even today, a young Amish lad may be given a courting buggy around age 16, allowing him to offer a girl a lift home after the community “sing.”
Courting buggies saw use in Victorian days in Carson Valley, too. One especially beautiful courting buggy used by Louie Heitman when he courted his future wife, Annee Andraeson, can be seen at Douglas County Historical Society.