Already in the 19th century, the Basel Historical Museum had been gifted with a number of sleighs from the 17th and 18th century. After 1930, coaches were increasingly added to the collection. Since 1981, when the former Carriage Museum opened in the Merian Gardens, the collection has grown continuously. Testifying to the mobility of our forefathers, it tells a story of fascination with travel and the mobility of the upper classes.

Until its closure in September 2016, the exhibition building that was later renamed the Museum of Horsepower attracted large numbers of visitors to its public collection.

Today these vehicles are stored in a depot. A representative selection of exhibits from the carriage and sleigh collection as well as a documented history of the museum are digitally accessible to the public.

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Coaches and Sleighs

One focus of the collection lies on ostentatious vehicles for use about town dating from the second half of the 19th century, although the museum has some older, much rarer coaches as well. The sleighs range from the lavishly ornate sleighs of the Baroque period to more modern, purely functional vehicles. Most were built, or at any rate used, here in Basel.

The Baroque Diana Sleigh from the court of the Elector Palatine ranks among the highlights of the collection. Baroque nobility would have used this exquisitely decorated, festive conveyance for sleigh rides through the snow.

Another highlight is the Biedermeier calèche. Although typically used for longer journeys, by removing the hood and the front and side windows, this vehicle could be converted into an open carriage for use in town.

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Children’s Carriages and Sleighs

Baby carriages and other vehicles made specifically to entertain children were often pulled by the children themselves, or by a nurse, nanny or house boy. Sometimes a dog, goat or even a sheep was hitched up as draught animal. The miniature Biedermeier calèche made specially for children is a good example of such a vehicle.

Sleighs drawn or pushed by hand sometimes had to double as baby carriages in winter. The offspring of wealthy families, for example, were bundled up in furs and then pulled or pushed to school by the maid or house boy. They were taken on skating excursions in the same way.

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Travel Accessories

Also part of the collection are harnesses, bridles and reins, furs for riding in sleighs, liveries, bells, lamps and various other artefacts from the age of horse-drawn locomotion. These accessories, especially those of the 19th and early 20th century, provide vivid proof of just how rapidly the streets of Basel were taken over by the automobile.