Four-wheeled vehicles that came in a variety of designs to meet the needs of the owner. Generally, they were driven by the owner and by the end of the 18th century, high bodied phaetons were fashionable, but they were dangerous because they were top-heavy (and thus tipped easily) and were especially fast. Most were intended to seat two passengers with a foldable head that gave them coverage from the weather; though some featured rear seats for servants, that seat was not protected.

The name came from Greek mythology; Phaeton (son of son god, Helios) drove his father’s chariot and it nearly destroyed the world.

While in modern fiction, this carriage tends to be described as a gentleman’s carriage only, both Jane Austen and Anne Bronte had female characters who owned and drove their own phaetons.

Mail Phaeton

Name comes from the fact that the suspension springs are similar to a Royal Mail Coach.

It was used by country gentlemen for sports and was considered the premier phaeton coach because of its size and style. It had an additional seat at the back for the grooms or servants.

  • Seats: 2 passengers + 2 grooms

  • Horses: 2 or 4

Stanhope Phaeton

Also known as a Demi-Mail Phaeton

This carriage had similar design elements to a Stanhope gig but was fashioned into a phaeton with four wheels. It had a seat in the back for servants.

  • Seats: 2 passengers + 2 servants

  • Horses: 2 or 4

Spider Phaeton

It was light and elegant and very fashionable for young men to use in town from the mid to late 1800s. It was ideal for showing off a pair of light, spirited horses. The groom sat on a seat on the back where he could easily jump down and grab the horses when necessary.

  • Seats: 2 passengers + 1 grooms

  • Horses: 2 or 4

Pony Phaeton

This was used for a lady to make social calls or drive around the estate. It was also used by children for fun. It had no head and was used for short journeys in good weather.

  • Seats: 2 children or 1 lady

  • Horses: 1 or 2 (in tandem)