A real ‘Jingle Bells’ one-horse open sleigh
  • Christmas decorations with a touch of class
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    Auction Finds

    A Christmas sleigh ready for a loving touch

    The old sleigh looked as if it had been left unattended in a barn for years. Its red leather was dirty and hard. The elements had battered its wood, leaving gaps, nicks and holes. It looked forlorn and pitiful stationed there in front of the auction house.

    But even in its state, it looked much better than the old Amish-style horse-drawn carriage parked not too far away. That vehicle looked as if it had been left out in a field, and one touch would’ve sent it shattering into pieces against the concrete yard.

    This auction sleigh was battered,weathered and needed restoring.

    I was more enamored with the sleigh, though, because it represented the warmth of Christmas and Santa Claus and the closeness one felt with a loved one while tucked under a blanket gliding through the snow. I’ve never ridden in a sleigh before, but it was a wonderfully romantic image.

    I’ m sure it’s similar to the pleasure evoked by the Antique Sleigh Rally being held for the second year in February at Old Sturbridge Village in Massachusetts. The rally is expected to attract dozens of sleighs, some up to 120 years old competing in several categories, according to the website.

    A video from this year’s rally showed people parading their sleighs in antique-car style to fans lined up to admire them. It looked like a fun event on a cold day in the snow.


    The sleigh at auction was perhaps a Portland cutter.

    The sleigh at auction appeared to be authentic, with its wooden base and runners. Based on my research, it looked to be a Portland cutter. These were first made by a man named Peter Kimball and his sons in Portland, OR, and were among the most popular sleighs in the mid-1800s, according to the Owls Head Transportation Museum in Maine. The first sleighs were fancily dressed in silk and silver. Plain ones were available by 1910, according to the website.

    The Portland was in good company. There were the Albany cutter (which one site said was synonymous with Santa), the Bob sleigh (it has two sets of runners that make it easier to manipulate and turn), racing sleighs and freight sleighs.

    The website HowStuffWorks even laid out the parts for Santa’s sleigh, including a GPS navigator programmed by the elves (with a naughty-or-nice sensor), a speedometer to monitor his speed, a hot cocoa dispenser, an iPod to play Christmas songs and a radio for keeping in touch back home.

    An up-close view of the inside of the sleigh.

    I found an array of lovely antique sleighs for sale on the web, with one site advertising prices ranging from $895 for a Portland cutter, $1,200 for an Albany cutter, $4,995 for a Hudson Valley sleigh and $6,995 for a Park Bob sleigh.

    Along with the antiques were several sites offering reproduction sleighs for rent or sale. You could choose a one-seater up to a 12-seater ($5,150), a sleigh with a stuffed reindeer for your lawn, miniature sleighs for your home or office, or a sleigh coffee table ($750).

    I wasn’t around when the auction sleigh came up for sale, but I assume the buyer – if it was sold – would restore it. Once cleaned up, it would be a lovely piece of history – plain but nostalgic for those living in wintry climes.

    The front of the sleigh at auction.


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