Private Carriage, Public Journey

Private Carriage, Public Journey

February 2008 – February 2009

Eight hooves, four wheels, and a coachman on the box meant more to Mary Baker Eddy than just a means of transportation. For her, daily carriage rides represented recreation, rare moments of solitude, and opportunities for prayer. For the public, the carriage became a symbol of her celebrity.

By 1895, when Mary Baker Eddy bought a brougham carriage her daily carriage rides had become public events as more and more people wanted to catch a glimpse of her. Within the next decade, this attention would build until the carriage rides themselves became major news. Her success as a best-selling author, church founder, publisher, and healer came at the cost of intense media scrutiny. Newspapers frequently charted Mary Baker Eddy’s carriage rides as a sign of her health and a symbol of the success of the Christian Science movement.

By reading Mary Baker Eddy’s correspondence with J. P. and W. H. Emond Carriage Builders in Boston, Library staff discovered that she was highly involved in the details of the carriage’s construction, dictating numerous customizations. Her selections included windows in the rear panels, green cloth for the seat, and quilted satin for the head lining. The finished product, the manufacturer declared, was “the handsomest Brougham we have ever built.” Another buyer, after seeing Mary Baker Eddy’s brougham, asked that his carriage be built to match her specifications.

In fall 2007, conservators B. R. Howard & Associates, Inc., carefully prepared Mary Baker Eddy’s brougham carriage for public display. The conservators stabilized and cleaned the paint, removing built-up layers of grime-laden linseed oil and exposing the original surface and design detail. This process revealed the original ornate gold “MBE” monogram on the door panels. The conservators also installed new tires on the carriage wheels, since the solid rubber tires had flattened from many years in storage.

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