limousines are so common on our streets now that we take them for granted, but do you know their history and their origins? You may not be surprised to learn that limousines originated in France.
Many hundreds of years ago, shepherds in Limousin, France, developed a hooded overgarment to protect themselves from the rain and cold which they called a ‘limousine'.
In the 1900s when carriages were first emerging, the same motivation lead to a similar garment being used by the drivers of the carriages, as well as a cover being developed to create covered travelling compartments. There was also a Parisian coach builder from Limousin who may have been responsible for the word limousine applying to covered coaches, which were of course always chauffeur driven.
By the 1900s, the word limousine was firmly associated with the fuel powered vehicles with enclosed passenger compartments and a cover over the driver. The tradition of the vehicles being driven by a hired driver carried over from the drivers of the horse-drawn carriages. It was also expected that the passengers relax in the back, fully covered compartment.
The role of the chauffeur soon developed beyond that of just driver as the early carriages were complex machines and needed the attention of skilled attendants - chauffeurs who could refuel and fix the vehicles. The chauffeur then slowly evolved from random hired help to being a regular employee of the passenger.
Chauffeur driven limousines were simply the next item which displayed the need for us to arrive wherever we were going in style; and preferably style more apparent than the next man.
While the opinion was held in 1904 that limousines would surpass horse-drawn carriages in popularity, it was not until the 1920s that this was prominently the case. Motor cars were not seen as a regular mode of transport, but more as a toy for the wealthy. Around town the horse-drawn carriage was more popular and initially more reliable as the motorised limousines were not suitable for use in winter.
Although motor-driven limousines were initially met with trepidation, much work and adjustment went into the limousine to create a reliable and luxurious mode of transport.