The Leviathan Coach – 1860

The Leviathan Coach.

I have been interested in the Leviathan Coach ever since the 1960s, when I purchased in New York the engraving below. The Leviathan has many references in the various Cobb and Co and coaching books published over the years, but this illustration has never appeared. I was able recently to identify the publication in which it appeared, and include here the text of its covering story.

Frank Leslie's Illustrated Newspaper, New York. December 8, 1860.


“We have to record a new instance of American enterprise in the far-off colony of Victoria, Australia. We illustrate below a very large coach, built in Ballarat by Mr J D Morgan (formerly of New York), for Messrs F B Clapp and Co., coach proprietors and mail contractors. This is only one of many coaches possessed by this company. It is intended to seat sixty five persons, and is drawn by six horses. The outside is beautifully ornamented – the panellings having painted on them the American Eagle, the Goddess of Liberty, and several other appropriate devices. The interior is divided into two compartments, one being set apart for ladies, and the other for gentlemen. It is most gorgeously fitted up with velvet pile cushions, damask hangings, Brussels carpets and mirrors. 

 The proprietors are all citizens of the United States; Mr Frank Boardman Clapp, of Massachusetts, Mr William Warren and Mr Henry Hoyt, both of New York State. Their agents and business men generally are also Americans.

The number of horses in constant use by the firm is between seven and eight hundred. Their mail contracts amount to about twenty five thousand pounds, or one hundred and twenty five thousand dollars per annum. This will give an idea of the extent of the operations, and shows that Americans there, as well as in all other parts of the world, are men of enterprise, and consequently valuable to any community that they settle with. This company alone does about one third of the whole of the coaching done in that Colony. The rest of it is also in the hands of Americans, and all running, or at rather, carrying on their business, under the title of Cobb and Co., from the fact of Mr Freeman Cobb, a native of Massachusetts, having initiated the coaching here, in which he was very successful, having returned to his home with a large fortune. 

 The following extract from a Victorian paper will give an idea of the sensation made by the starting of this mammoth coach.

The Leviathan Coach.

We (that is, Victorians) may be in our infancy, and there are possibly a great many things in which either London or New York might beat us, but if England can produce a Greta Eastern, and Americans an Astor House, we can afford to give them credit for their possessions, and point with calm contempt to our Monster Coach. It is a coach, a regular double barrelled three decker; and as it appeared on Saturday morning, loaded with an unascertained number of passengers, with compartments somewhat resembling the cuddy, intermediate and steerage, of one of Mackay, Baines and Co vessels; with sundry members of the enterprising firm of F B Clapp and Co “shouting” champagne from the box seat; with Shepherd that celebrated, handling his ribbons with becoming Yankee nonchalance; with Liberty and the Great Eastern Steamship painted on its panels; and noisy dancing masters hurrahing on the roof; with half Ballarat surrounding it and young Australia yelling congratulations with exemplary vigour; with all these accessories, none of which was particularly required, that same Leviathan Coach was launched on its trial trip, perhaps the most splendid specimen of vehicular manufacture ever seen in the country; and, at all events, the most favoured coach as regards public interest that we ever had the pleasure of seeing.

It was manufactured by Mr J D Morgan of this town, and is constructed to carry sixty passengers. The interior is divided into two compartments, the “forecastle” being reserved for ladies and the afterpart for gentlemen. On the roof are fixed a number of benches, properly cushioned, on which the lovers of fresh air can comfortably seat themselves, and resign themselves to the pleasures of rapid locomotion and the soothing wind. Besides these there are the box seats and the seat behind them, every available inch of space being cleverly appropriated to the accommodation of passengers. Certainly the coach, loaded as it was on Saturday, had to us an unpleasant appearance of top-heaviness; but experienced persons tell us that its breadth of base is sufficiently great to warrant the safety of the superstructure. At all events it went down the Main Road in perfect safety on Saturday, and although we hear that the wheels required periodical greasing ever so many times on the way to Buninyong, we cannot help congratulating the district on possessing a maker able to construct, a Jehu able to drive, and a company sufficiently enterprising to purchase such a coach as the “Leviathan”.