In 1967, Patterson Transfer Co. donated the panel boot Victoria carriage displayed at the exit of the Memphis history gallery. The Brewster Carriage Company built the vehicle in 1902, and sold it new for $1,300 ( roughly $30,000 in today’s currency). Our panel boot Victoria was owned by Robert E. Galloway, the president of Patterson Transfer.
Don Berkebile from the Smithsonian Institution came to Memphis in November 1967 to examine the Victoria and the wagonette and stagecoach that Patterson Transfer Co. also donated. He noted that the panel boot Victoria was “an excellent example of its type in sound condition and certainly worth of restoration.” Gordon Elston, the museum preparator, directed the restoration, which included stripping the paint, applying original type finish, reupholstering the broadcloth, replacing the leather convertible top, replacing the patent leather dash, seat railing and trim, and constructing new fenders. In total, it took over two years to get the carriage ready for permanent display.
A general rule in preserving artifacts is to move them as little as possible. This guideline exists because every time something moves, there is a risk of damage. Nevertheless, there are many times when relocating artifacts is necessary. They must get into the museum, be placed in storage, gotten out for conservation, and positioned in cases. For the majority of the artifacts in the Pink Palace’s collection, it is a simple matter of putting the object on a cart and wheeling it to a new site. However, the carriage needed a different approach. If it was donated to the museum today, it would be brought by a truck to the loading dock, moved to the second floor on the freight elevator and wheeled to the gallery. However, the carriage was delivered to the museum in April 1970.
In 1970, the entire museum was housed in the Pink Palace mansion with the exhibits located on the first and second floors. Since there was no freight elevator, the front doors were the only way staff could bring objects inside. In fact, the difficulty of getting large objects into the museum was one of the reasons given for constructing a new museum building. The panel boot Victoria just eked through the opening and never made it much past the doors. Once it was inside, staff members displayed it in front of the large mirror in the mansion lobby where it stayed until it moved to the second floor of the new museum building that opened in 1977.
Caroline Mitchell Carrico works in the Exhibit Department at the Memphis Pink Palace Museum. She has a graduate degree in history from The University of Memphis, and the picture of the carriage going through the mansion’s front door is one of her favorite photographs.