I was reading an old newspaper article from 1895 and the word "dayton" is used at least twice.

Here's how it's used in the article:

Shortly after they left Messrs. J. H. Greene and L. C. Barley, who had been employed as counsel for the acccused, appeared at the jail in a dayton for the purpose of having an interview with Poss and Henry.

And later:

The prisoners when they saw the dayton coming as fast as the horses could run, supposed it was a lynching party in pursuit, and were filled with considerable apprehension until the recognized the lawyers and a friend in the vehicle.

From the context, I assume a "dayton" is some kind of a horse-drawn carriage, and one that can be driven fairly quickly, but searching Google for things like "dayton carriage" or "dayton carriage style" comes up with nothing relevant, and the results are thoroughly polluted with links relating to Dayton, Ohio.

I'd like to know what a "dayton" actually was, and how it got its name.

The original article is from the Alexandria Gazette for December 2, 1895, "Taken to Fairfax Courthouse" and is on the Library of Congress's "Chronicling America" website.

  • Dayton Ohio had many automobile manufacturers early in the 20th Century, maybe before – J. Taylor Feb 22 '17 at 10:38
  • OED doesn't contain dayton. It does mention Dayton, but only in the context of the 1995 agreement to end the Bosnian war. – Andrew Leach Feb 22 '17 at 10:39
  • I have seen the term a half-dozen times, to my recollection always when describing a mode of transportation prior to 1900. Most of these references were for police transport, so I've generally interpreted it to mean a "paddy wagon" or something similar -- an enclosed carriage that might be used for transporting prisoners. – Hot Licks Feb 22 '17 at 13:24

The Dayton wagon appears to be, as you surmise, a type of horse-drawn carriage. According to Carriage Terminology: A Historical Dictionary (Smithsonian, 1978) edited by Don. H. Berkebile, a canonical reference for such vehicles, a Dayton wagon is

A variety of spring wagon having raved sides, two or more removable seats, and generally a standing top. They are used for both business and pleasure.

A spring wagon, in turn, in a variety of platform wagon, so named because the body was a box platform set on springs.

This was a most versatile and popular wagon, much used by farmers because of its adaptability as either a passenger or general-purpose wagon. When used for carrying goods, all but the front seat were generally removed, and the rear end-gate was usually hinged to facilitate loading.

The origin is uncertain, other than that Dayton, Ohio was a manufacturing center for wagon wheels and carriages, and later other vehicles (the Wright brothers, famously, operated a bicycle shop in Dayton). The Dictionary of American Regional English indexes it as a term mainly used in Delaware and Maryland (it appears in a Mencken piece), but I do not have access to the entry. Online, I could not find references earlier than about 1880.


I find this reference to a paddy wagon:


This bad boy went into service in 1909. It was a Stoddard-Dayton paddy wagon and it had a whopping 45 horsepower. It was our first motorized “Police Patrol Wagon.” A year later, the department would also add a second Stoddard-Dayton car to its fleet for the chief and a police ambulance. At the time, there were 3,600 privately owned vehicles on the city streets. However, officers still walked their beats and often road streetcars to calls.

However, this does not explain the earlier references quoted, or the usages I recall. The Stoddard-Dayton company didn't exist prior to 1905.

  • Did the Stoddard-Dayton company form in 1905 as the merger of the Dayton company and the Stoddard company? – jejorda2 Feb 22 '17 at 13:40
  • "...often road [sic] streetcars..."! – Chris H Feb 22 '17 at 13:48
  • @jejorda2 The Stoddard-Dayton was a car; the company was Dayton Motor Car Company, which was founded in 1905 after its founder switched from making agricultural machines in 1904. So no, there was no company at all at the time the article in this question was written. – Janus Bahs Jacquet Feb 22 '17 at 20:35

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