Tag Archives: Cleveland carriage-maker

Rauch & Lang electric cars

At my launch event for The Last of the Blacksmiths, during the question and answer period my friend Larry raised his hand.

“Was Rauch a real person in history?” he asked.

Yes! Charles Rauch was a real person, a contemporary of Michael Harm in Cleveland in the 19th century who built fine carriages, ice wagons and buggies. Of course, my book being historical fiction, I surmised his personality, likes and dislikes, but the real historic Charles Rauch, son of Jacob, did gravitate toward factory-style manufacture of carriage-making. The Rauch & Lang factory took up several blocks on Pearl Road on Cleveland’s west side. At the start of the 20th century, he stayed on the cutting edge of vehicle manufacture with the production of a state-of-the-art electric automobile. Like the fine carriages, the Rauch & Lang electric cars were popular with Cleveland’s wealthier, Millionaire’s Row set.

Rauch & Lang electric carAt a recent visit to the Western Reserve Historical Society’s Crawford Auto Aviation Collection, I was delighted to find this example, circa 1916, of a Rauch & Lang electric car.

Learning to love (and understand) horse-drawn carriages

In a letter written in 1850 from Cleveland, Ohio, Johann Rapparlie described his Smith and Wagon Shop at the corner of Michigan and Seneca, rebuilt after a fire.

I have sure built everything out of brick, with the blacksmith and wagonbuilder work spaces in a building 60 foot long 24 wide 2 ½ stories high. Above are workplaces for the lacquerer and saddlemaker.

At first, my 21st-century mindset had difficulty making sense of the terms “lacquerer and saddlemaker.” A visit to the Northwest Carriage Museum in Raymond, Washington clued me in that a lacquerer was a painter. Paint applications on carriages were finished off with several hard, glossy coats of lacquer, or varnish.

Saddlemaker conjured images of horse saddles, until I realized it was an old-fashioned term for a “trimmer” or “upholsterer.” Here is a picture of some damn fine carriage upholstery, in a C-spring Victoria carriage also on display at the Northwest Carriage Museum.

(double-click on either image to enlarge)