The Customer was Always Right!

The Campbell Carriage Factory built several models of carriage, different kinds of wagon, and several types of sleigh. The business records suggest they produced a surprising range of styles for a small business in a small community. There are no records of the big coaches and grand carriages one might find in the bigger cities, but there are over a dozen types of carriage listed in the records (let alone wagons and sleighs) and it seems to have been driven by customer choice.1

Such diversity was characteristic of a “pre-industrial” factory of the 19th century, where they were able to meet a variety of ever-changing expectations and meet a range of needs. Skilled workmen could alter plans and easily mix & match parts to suit each customer’s wishes. By contrast, when industrial manufacturing plants are organized to produce automobiles, machines not only prepare the raw material (as they did at the Campbell Carriage Factory) but actually stamp out parts. Workers mostly assemble the autos in preset assembly lines. Consequently, we can purchase only those models THEY have chosen to produce. They need sales people to tell you “what you want”!2

At the Campbell Carriage Factory the customer could specify exactly what they wanted. To begin with they could choose from among the standard models currently popular. But the craftsmen, at this pre-industrial factory, rarely turned out two carriages exactly alike. The customer could ask for adjustments to size and shape, and pretty well custom design their own carriage.

And when it came to repairs, these craftsmen were your best bet for getting your particular carriage fixed or even refurbished. Who ever heard of taking your car back to the manufacturing plant to get it repaired? Industrial manufacturing requires an additional network of service stations and repair shops.
1 "Carriage Types." Carriage Terminology: An Historical Dictionary.  Don Berkebile.  Washington: Smithsonian Instittute, 1978. 13ff

2  Kinney, Thomas. The Carriage Trade:  Making Horse-drawn Vehicles in America.  Baltimore:  Johns Hopkins University Press, 2004.  241-244.

Paul Bogaard
Adèle Hempel, Michael Doan
19-20th Century
© 2007, Tantramar Heritage Trust. All Rights Reserved.

Teachers' Centre Home Page | Find Learning Resources & Lesson Plans