Old West Stagecoach Etiquette mandates ‘spitting on the leeward side’

Stagecoach (Montana State University Library)

“Spit on the leeward side,” an article on stagecoach etiquette in the 1877 Omaha Herald advised.  “If you have anything to drink in a bottle, pass it around.”

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Just one year before telephone service was introduced to the town through the Nebraska Telephone Company, the local newspaper has often been attributed to as the original published adviser on how to behave while traveling west.

Evidence shows that by 1877 St. Joseph’s Hospital had been in operation on the northeast corner of 10th and Castellar Streets and that a historical flood caused the Missouri River to change course. Over 1,600 acres of Iowa on the Nebraska side of the river sudden became a lake, now deemed Carter Lake. But there is little, if any proof that the famous list of stage coach etiquette was actually ever included in the Herald. The only confirmation comes from various souvenir posters and photos often found in trading posts, truck stops and tourist shops.

Stagecoach Etiquette poster (Souvenir)

In the spirit of the Old West here is the most common version of “Stagecoach Etiquette:”

The best seat inside a stage is the one next to the driver. Even if you have a tendency to seasickness when riding backwards — you’ll get over it and will one-half less jolts and jostling.

Don’t let ‘sly elph’ trade you his mid-seat.

Bathe your feet before starting in cold weather, and wear loose overshoes and gloves two or three sizes too large. When the driver asks you to get off and walk, do so without grumbling, he won’t request it unless absolutely necessary. If the team runs away — sit still and take your chances. If you jump, nine out of ten times you will get hurt.

In very cold weather, abstain entirely from liquor when on the road, because you will freeze twice as quickly when under its influence.

Don’t growl at the food received at the station — stage companies generally provide the best they can get.

Don’t keep the stage waiting.

Don’t smoke a strong pipe inside the coach, especially in the morning.

Spit on the leeward side.

If you have anything to drink in a bottle, pass it around.

Procure your stimulants before starting, as “ranch” (stage depot) whisky is not “nectar.”

Stagecoach (Movie 1966)

Take small change to pay expenses.

Don’t discuss politics or religion nor point out places on the road where horrible murders have been committed if delicate women are among the passengers. Don’t lag at the wash basin.

Don’t grease your hair, because travel is dusty.

Don’t imagine for a moment that you are going on a picnic. Expect annoyances, discomfort, and some hardships.

Be sure and take two heavy blankets with you; you will need them.

Don’t swear; do not lop over on your neighbor when sleeping. Don’t ask how far it is to the next station until you get there.

Never attempt to fire a gun or pistol while on the road; it may frighten the team and the careless handling and cocking of the weapon makes nervous people nervous.

Luis Robert Vera, Jr. Law office

All Seasons Ground Care (CLICK) in San Antonio & La Vernia

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