Inside an Amish buggy
So often we see only the exterior of an Amish buggy. The distinct silhouette of an Amish carriage is so easily recognizable it’s become a symbol of the people.
What’s inside that buggy? Interiors can vary based on what’s accepted in a given Amish church, and also on the age of the driver (with the more “creative” interiors found in the vehicles of the younger generation).
Here area few shots taken up-close-and-personal inside an Amish buggy in Illinois. What do you notice?
Amish Buggy Ride
We went on a double date with our Amish friends; my husband told Ben, it was his turn to drive. So, they picked us up in their yellow topped buggy! I was so surprised when I climbed in and found the seats, sides and ceiling covered in blue crushed velvet; and the “dashboard” was a beautiful finished wood. Unbelievable! We went to a local buffet restaurant; think we were the topic of conversation for those watching “English” climb out of a buggy with an Amish couple! One of my best memories.
Claudia, Here's my yellow-buggy experience
Marvin, a personable nineteen-year-old, expressed obvious pride as he showed off his new purchase, an incongruous juxtaposition of plain and fancy. “I went down to Lancaster County to buy this one because their carriages are a lot nicer than the ones sold here in the Big Valley. One thing, their buggies have nicer switch boxes made out of oak with this glossy finish and they have this ignition switch so that nobody can mess with my battery-operated lights,” Marvin explained. “They also put these nice burnt edges on the trim with acetylene torches,” he pointed out. The switch box also featured a toggle for his running lights (flashing lights used at night for safety) and another switch to control the two interior floor lights. Finally he showed us the cigarette lighter, “for my spotlight,” he quickly added.
One observer described this kind of interior decor as “neo-Vegas” (Goldstein 1997, 40). Everything in Marvin’s carriage was color-coordinated in maroon, from the swirled, velvet-covered walls, ceilings, and carpets to the wine-dyed sheepskin on the front seat and the rabbit foot hanging from one of the switches. Even the two theatre-style inside lights glowed red. Artificial roses and apple blossoms decorated each corner, and a wreath of roses encircled the overhead dome light.
A pair of fluffy dice, a car air-freshener, and a mini-flashlight inscribed with the name of the carriage shop dangled from the switch box. On the box itself, a decidedly non-Amish decal of a bald eagle clutched an American flag in its talons. Two more eagles graced both ends of a glossy shelf where he kept his Liedersammlung, the thin songbook used at their Sunday night singings. “Indian feathers” hung from a tack in the ceiling, and more feathers intertwined with the roses in the wreath. A small stuffed teddy bear completed the soft decor. In the glove box he stashed a bottle of musk cologne, and the polished dash featured a clock and a battery gauge. A second air-freshener dangled in the rear. Under the back seat he stored his horse blanket.
Marvin purchased the most luxurious carriage available. Unlike the Nebraska buggies, it boasted fiberglass shafts and hydraulic brakes. He had battery-operated yellow safety lights mounted on the front and red flashers, reflector tape, and six reflectors on the rear. “Dad and Mom gave me $2,500 towards the carriage. I had to pay the rest from what I saved from my job working for an English neighbor,” he explained.
Interesting! I know we have buggy makers here in Big Valley, didn’t think the Amish here would travel to Lancaster to purchase one. But he sure had his reasons! Good info!
Rich, thanks for posting this, every young male craves his own wheels it seems 🙂
Will we be able to read this in the new edition of Growing Up Amish: The Teenage Years?
My revision is underway
The yellow youngie buggy, complete with bells and whistles, that Mervin purchased 10 years ago has inflated from $6,000 to at least $7,500 for the equivalent 2012 model. It’s amazing to me how much has changed in the youth scene in that time, especially with regard to technology. I just returned yesterday from an Amish wedding in Indiana (state of), and I have lots of interesting stuff to add. Thanks for asking–and for the free publicity 🙂 I hope to get Johns Hopkins to spring for five copies for your book drawing lottery. But don’t hold your breath. My deadline is 31 May, and it may be another nine months till the final copy is born. P.S. I’m still looking for good youngie pics. P.P.S. You’re missing a fantastic opportunity to earn some drachmas–zlotys?, Erik. You could charge 5 zlotys to enter your lottery. It might be enough to pay for a honeymoon to the U.S. Just kidding–about the lootery part. Rich
Nice info to know Rich, I wonder how much of the price change is regular inflation and how much is “new stuff” making its way inside.
And we’ll be happy to get whatever we can on the new edition, whenever it’s born. By the way you always seem to have interesting business/life ideas 🙂
Great story Claudia. I imagine the wood you are talking about looked something like the “dash” in these photos: https://amishamerica.com/comparing-big-valley-buggy-dashboards-of-the-byler-renno-and-nebraska-amish/
The other dash in the photos belongs to a Renno Amish buggy.
In photo #1, is the view like you’re sitting on the front seat and looking up toward the ceiling and the front? I notice wires tacked up along the side, presumably going from the battery to the lights. Is the empty horseshoe-shaped holder big enough for a fire extinguisher, or is it small enough to latch the storm front when the front is hinged in the open position?
Amish buggy light controls
Linda, I asked the picture-taker and yes, this is the ceiling. The view confused me at first. Not sure about the holder, but here is what the picture author had to say:
The metal lever are the turn signals and the other knobs are for the lights, head lights, inside light, running lights those sorts of things….The controls are on the ceiling. All the buggies I rode inside of in Arthur were that way. The metal turn signal lever is typical in Arthur.
This buggy dates to the early 1990s. Newer ones are nicer inside.
Also I goofed on the angle of the bottom photo of the window latch, fixed now (originally had it up sideways).
The interior of buggies I’ve seen here seem to be more luxurious than I’d have imagined! Of course, reading about the “crushed velvet”, color-coordinated interior of a young Amishman’s buggy was quite an eye-opener! I would imagine a “family” buggy would be toned down, wouldn’t it? (Once a young guy joins the church, I’d think the fake roses might have to “go”, yes?)
Erik (or anyone else familiar with Amish transportation/safety), do the Amish ever install seatbelts or use child restraints (“car seats”) of any kind? I’m glad that battery-operated lights and reflectors seem to be more common than not, but what about the safety of the driver & passengers? Or would those measures reflect a mis-trust in God’s will?
I was going to ask Alice Mary’s question — Do they ever install seatbelts or use “car” seats for their infants and little ones?
Amish use seat belts or car seats?
Alice Mary & Margaret, I remembered the seat belt question had come up once before, I just found what I wrote at the time. Maybe someone has different info, but this was my take:
I’ve never heard of seat belts being used in Amish buggies–I believe it has to do with the physics of it–the thinking that if hit, it is better to be thrown from the flimsy carriage than crushed inside. My Amish friends own car seats and use them primarily when riding in cars, with little ones typically riding on laps in buggies. Like Dena says below the baby-style “seat” can be useful in other situations though, as a way to carry an infant.
This might be an odd question but do Amish buggies have brakes?
I know about the lights and wipers and such but what about brakes.
The Amish buggy that I own needs some work done to it. It did have brakes, but the lights, brakes, etc. all have to be redone.
So I guess I answered my own question.
Hi Linda. Yes they have a brake pedal which applies brake pads to the outside of the wheels at the top (on all the buggies I’ve seen). The horses walk slowly uphill, but want to get going fast downhill (or when they’re nearing home), so the driver applies the brake to keep the rig at a manageable speed. Horses can lose command of their bodies (their athletic ability is diminished) due to the harness and buggy arms, and higher speed is altogether more dangerous when you consider potholes, and shoulders; Also, even seasoned horses can kind of “lose it” mentally when they get going way too fast.
I’ve never seen a buggy with such fashionable interior. Only black upholstery, and a dark blue rug, generally.
In picture 2, the side wall is upholstered and seems to come up higher than the window. Is there a purpose for that? Maybe an Amish safety feature for side impacts. It seems it would block the side view of any but the tallest passengers. Thanks for any explanation.
Erik, I love seeing these interiors and hearing about more in the comments is sensational. Rick’s friend sounds like a guy after my own heart. I really like the description of his adornments.
Good question Carolyn, not sure really. Perhaps a comfort feature, since these can get pretty packed. Or possibly a seat back, if you can remove the bench and change the alignment for side-facing seats (this is a double buggy).
Solar buggy in Pinecraft, Florida
Some plain Old Order Mennonite communities in Canada do not allow the unmarried boys to have enclosed buggies, so that the young men cannot spiff up the front or interior if the carriage is open. The older men are allowed to have tops on their buggies.
Larry’s Solar Green Buggy rolls thru Pinecraft, 3 minutes, from March 2012. This is the second solar green buggy Larry made. The 48-volt buggy is powered by 4 solar panels. Solar panels charge four batteries. Enjoy!
Buggy for wedding
I was wondering if anyway to get one for my wedding can anyone tell me and of course would want an amish person horse and buggy thank you