Horse Power – The Paul Bienvenu Carriage Collection

Special Exhibition

Horse Power

Mar 24, 2016 – Jan 7, 2018

Exquisite craftsmanship combines with the romance of bygone days in this sumptuous exhibition of 18 horse-drawn sleighs and carriages. Handcrafted between 1770 and 1950, these elegant conveyances once transported Catholic cardinals, Montréal millionaires and governors general. Today, the artistry of the carriage makers lives on in the graceful lines of these lovingly restored antiques. Phaeton, coach, hansom cab or brougham sleigh, each one showcases a different regional style and demonstrates how climate and geography influenced design in the era of horse-powered transportation. On loan from Québec’s Musées de la civilisation Paul-Bienvenu Carriage Collection, these pieces belong to the finest collection of horse-drawn vehicles in North America — a collection nationally recognized as a Canadian cultural treasure.

An exhibition developed by the Musées de la civilisation, Quebec City, and presented by the Canadian Museum of History, Gatineau.

In this video, collector Paul Bienvenu discusses his passion for horse-drawn vehicles and what makes this collection so uniquely Canadian.


Did you know?

  • The 1800s were truly the golden age of the horse-drawn vehicle.
  • In 1850, 33 of Canada’s 58 carriage-making workshops were located in Québec.
  • In 1901, there were 1,260 Quebec companies engaged in building horse-drawn vehicles. Every village had a repair shop or workshop.
  • Bruno Ledoux was renowned as the greatest coach builder in Canadian history. The Bruno Ledoux Carriage Company of Montréal specialized in custom built vehicles for the rich and famous. There are five carriages by Bruno Ledoux in the exhibition.
  • Most horse drawn vehicles had a nameplate, identifying the maker – a tradition still used by car makers today.
  • There is a cabriolet sleigh in the exhibition that represented Canada at London’s Great Exhibition in 1851, the first world fair.
  • Passengers in a vis-à-vis sleigh sit face to face: front passengers facing rearward & rear passengers facing forward.
  • For more than 50 years, Paul Bienvenu has collected horse-drawn vehicles made or used in Quebec. One of the vehicles in the exhibition (a calèche) is over 200 years old.


The exhibition in pictures



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