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Characteristics of the Albany Cutter

A cutter is a type of sleigh.  It is a two–seat passenger vehicle with high open runners. The Albany–style cutter was also called a “swell–body” sleigh because of its rounded form, notably its body and curved dash. James Goold, of Albany, designed the original model. Over time it was replicated and came to be the second most popular winter passenger vehicle in the United States after the Portland cutter, the design of which features straighter lines. Light and compact, the Albany model had the distinguishing characteristic of being more decorated than other sleighs, frequently displaying two eagle heads, one on each side of the upper section of the dash. The Albany was a deluxe winter passenger vehicle. The style was also popular in Canada if one goes by a note written by the editor of Carriage Monthly in December 1877, indicating that he had received many letters from Canada, including a request for plans to make sleighs with a swell body. It seems, however, that the Portland style cutter and the carriole were the most popular winter passenger vehicles in Canada.

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Portland type cutter manufactured by
the Baynes Carriage Company Limited
of Hamilton, Ontario (CSTM 1967.1218)
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Carriole manufactured by Léon D’Amours of Trois-Pistoles, Quebec
(CSTM 1985.0101)

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Albany cutter manufactured by R. & G. Pringle of Markham, Ontario (CSTM 1967.0051)
In the absence of information on the manufacturer of this new cutter, carriage–maker catalogues and advertisements were surveyed to see if they might shed light on its origin. Judging by the styles, colours, and decorative designs illustrated in the catalogues of the day, it seems that the Museum’s new sleigh originated between 1870 and 1885. The Museum’s collection already included an Albany cutter (1967.0051), but its condition is not as good nor is its provenance as clear, and it also differs slightly in style. Interestingly, the name of the manufacturer of the Museum’s first cutter is evident, a rare occurrence among the Albany cutters still encountered in Canada.

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Albany cutter featured in the Montgomery Ward & Company’s Fall and Winter 1894–95, Catalogue and Buyers Guide, no. 56, in Gun Digest, 1970, p. 559 (Gun Digest)
Incidentally, the first sleigh manufactured by Robert McLaughlin in 1867 was an Albany–type cutter. It seems that he drew inspiration from issues of The Coach Maker’s Illustrated Monthly Magazine, published in 1856. The rounded form of the Albany cutter is obtained by steaming its wood components, a lengthy manufacturing process requiring time and extensive craftsmanship. Given the associated high manufacturing costs, McLaughlin ceased production in 1881. However, it is interesting to note that towards the end of the nineteenth century, the catalogues of important U.S. retailers such as Sears, Roebuck & Company, as well as Montgomery Ward & Company, listed Albany type cutters.