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Schrader, Christian Stagecoach, 1850s


Christian Schrader was born in Indianapolis in 1842 to German immigrant parents. His family had made the weekslong ocean crossing to the United States in a small, crowded sailing vessel. They settled in Pittsburgh, but learned of the wonderful improvements contemplated in the new state of Indiana and decided to journey there. They traveled by flatboat down the Ohio River to Jeffersonville, then came to Indianapolis by wagon in the early 1830s.

Christian Schrader became a successful china merchant, but he also had a natural gift for drawing. His artist’s eye saw the city changing and growing about him, and he was determined to preserve the picturesque scenes of early Indianapolis. His documentary sketches provide scenes and intimate glimpses of life in Indianapolis during his lifetime.

  • Stagecoach
  • 9 3/4″ x 15″
  • Indiana State Library
  • Keywords: outdoors, trees, creeks, bridges, covered bridges, fences, transporation, drawings, cultural landscape, pencil Subjects: stagecoaches, people, domestic animals

This drawing depicts “The National Road high bridge in east Washington St. and Noble three squares east of Little’s Hotel—Crossing Pogues Run” according to a notation on the drawing. The “high bridge” is a covered bridge, of course. Little’s Hotel was at New Jersey and Washington streets. Noble Street is now College Avenue.

In The Old Northwest: Pioneer Period, 1815–1840, R. Carlyle Buley provides an interesting description of stagecoaches and stage travel: “The body contained two or three transverse seats for three passengers each, had side doors and was mounted or suspended high above the axles on plaited or riveted leather thongs or thorough braces, in lieu of springs. The result was a somewhat wobbly, top-heavy vehicle. Small luggage might be taken inside, stored with the driver, or put under the seats, but the infinite variety of odd-shaped carpetbags, leather trunks, hatboxes and such . . . presented a problem. The baggage boot at the rear could not hold all, but soon the coach top was utilized as well.”

According to The Diary of Calvin Fletcher, in 1836 there were three stagecoaches leaving Indianapolis in the morning: west to Terre Haute, east to Lawrenceburg, and south to Bloomington. In April 1849, Fletcher left Indianapolis by stage around 10 a.m., ate in Plainfield and Putnamville, and arrived in Terre Haute at 4 a.m. the next day. After conducting some business, Fletcher caught a small steamboat at 4 p.m. and arrived in Lafayette at midnight the following day.

Some Points To Consider

  • Ask students to compare the mode of travel, the bridge, and the fence with similar scenes of travel today. Ask them if they think this might be an important historical drawing. Why or why not? (Art 4.1.1)