Reflections: Horse-drawn carriages reminiscent of San Diego's early days
by Carol Olten
Jun 13, 2011 | 1991 views | 0 0 comments | 9 9 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Photo courtesy of the La Jolla Historical Society
Photo courtesy of the La Jolla Historical Society
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Social enjoyments have changed through the decades of La Jolla history. While one of today’s fashionable pastimes might be a party in a stretch limo, early La Jollans and visitors here found popular pleasure in an activity known as the tally-ho.

Basically, it involved hitching four prime horses to a carriage or coach and heading off to an attractive destination along the coast or going backcountry with a group of family members or friends. Picnic lunches and refreshments accompanied the outing of the day and one arrived for the adventure decorously “dressed-up.”

The tally-hos were fashionably recorded in the social columns of the time:

“Mr. and Mrs. Fred Jackson of San Diego, who have been spending summers at La Jolla, were host and hostess to a tally-ho party to the famed Torrey pines Sunday last.”

— The San Diego Union, Sunday morning, Aug. 26, 1900, in a column headlined “Gay Season at La Jolla.”

“A large tally-ho party from Pine Valley, Flinn Valley and San Diego spent Wednesday at La Jolla visiting Mrs. Walters at the Sea Side Inn”

— The San Diego Union Sunday morning, Sept. 5, 1900, in a column headlined “Witnessed at La Jolla.”

“The children of the Sisters convent in San Diego, accompanied by several of the Sisters, picnicked at La Jolla yesterday. The trip from town was made by tally-ho and the little folks had a good time on the trip as well as on the beaches.”

— The San Diego Union Sunday morning, Sept. 30, 1900 in a column entitled “Big Fish at La Jolla” (also heralding the taking of a 250-pound fish)

Many of La Jolla’s early prominent citizens, such as Wheeler Bailey and Anna Held, were recorded as organizing and participating in the popular tally-hos into the first of the 20th century when the arrival of the automobile no longer made them as popular. The automobile, in fact, replaced the carriage for its own sort of “tally-ho,” but the nomenclature turned to “a pleasure drive” or “Sunday afternoon spin” as Anson Mills later recorded a similar activity behind the wheel of his new Ford tooling around the dusty roadways.

Today, old photographs in the La Jolla Historical Society’s archival collection attest to the romance of the tally-ho in carriages. One from the 1870s shows a tally-ho group in Scripps Park enjoying a picnic while their horses and carriages stand waiting for a return trip, most probably to San Diego. In another, dated about a decade later, the fashion of the tally-ho is particularly evident as the carriage is bedecked by a fringed canopy and vines and flowers attached to its supports while the tally-hoers themselves wear their “Sunday best” couture of the day. A photo dated 1905 shows Philadelphia transplant Walter Lieber driving a handsome team of four horses with a carriage containing about a dozen men and women. The group is parked along a hillside of desolate landscape — perhaps, they are looking at real estate?

A mid-1890s photo depicts horses and a carriage with U.S. Grant Jr., his wife and Anna Held arriving to La Jolla by tally-ho. They came to see the lots on the cliffs (now by Cave Street) that Held had just purchased to create the Green Dragon Colony. Soon the artists, writers, musicians and theater performers that Held gathered around her would be enjoying more tally-hos.

Now, the past of the tally-ho is evoked here and there by tourist and travel groups who rent horse-and-carriage services for rides through historic neighborhoods or for special party occasions or weddings — still an alternative to that ever expedient stretch limo!

— Carol Olten is the historian at the La Jolla Historical Society

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