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Sedan Chairs

“Though I came only yesterday, I have equipped myself properly for Bath already, you see,” (pointing to a new umbrella); “I wish you would make use of it, if you are determined to walk; though I think it would be more prudent to let me get you a chair.” Persuasion The first sedan chair appeared in England as early as 1581, but was shunned by the public. In fact, in the early 1600’s when the Duke of Buckingham began to use one, he incurred public censure for making human beings do the work of animals. However, by the time Sir Saunders Duncombe introduced his chairs opinion had changed. In 1634, Sir Saunders Duncombe patented his own version of the sedan chair and obtained a monopoly on the rental of “hackney chairs” for fourteen years and “sprang some forty or fifty specimens upon a willing and even eager public” (Walsh). Elaborate costumes and coiffures were now in fashion and the sedan chair offered the surest way of travelling through filthy streets without getting rained on, splattered with mud, or having a coiffure ruined. The sedan chair was cheaper than hackney coaches, and a person could not only travel from door to door in a sedan chair but could travel from indoors to indoors without setting foot outside. The sedan chair was usually painted black outside and upholstered inside. Windows were fitted on three sides, though the front poleman necessarily presented the passenger with a view ahead consisting mainly of his back.

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