In a recent donation of Ted Spaulding to the Chester Historical Society was a rare visor cap with a Vermont chauffeur badge attached. Back in the early automobile days, instead of what we know today as a taxi service was licensed chauffeurs.
“Beginning in the early 20th century, qualified drivers for taxi cabs or other paid car services were issued a small metal license called a chauffeur badge. The word ‘chauffeur’ comes from the French word for ‘stoker,’ since the earliest automobiles utilized steam-powered engines, requiring the driver to stoke the coal fire during the engine’s operation. Though associated with luxury vehicles today, chauffeur licenses were required for all paid passenger-vehicle drivers, whether they were behind the wheel of a sleek limousine or a bulky city bus.
“In 1903, New York became the first state to issue a motor vehicle license for chauffeurs, also known as ‘public hacks.’ Pinned to a coat or hat, these metal badges provided an easy way for drivers to display their certification while operating their vehicle. While some badges were designed in the form of a state or a decorative crest, many were simply oval or shield-shaped affairs. Most chauffeur licenses indicated the date of issue, the state certified, and the driver’s specific identification number.”
Vermont first issued chauffeur badges in 1910. These badges were issued each year until 1927 when they were discontinued. Each year’s badge has a different shape and design, making them easy today to determine what year they were issued.
Ted’s chauffeur badge is a stamped metal badge with: “LICENSED CHAUFFEUR, VERMONT No. 841.”
Ted’s badge was issued in 1911, the second year of production. Ted’s father Ed was born in 1892 so in 1911 he would have been 19 years old. This visor has Ed’s initials inside the cap making us think Ed was a chauffeur in 1911 but this probably isn’t accurate. It’s more likely this cap was something Ed found when he was an auctioneer. We know he did collect a number of things he found interesting. Ed did get his chauffeur’s license but probably not until 1921.
The large house across the street from Lisai’s Market here in Chester that was recently restored is where W.R. and Ed Spaulding ran a livery stable and taxi service. Back in those days, there were barns and outbuildings for stables. What a great location for a taxi service. Anyone getting off the train next door at the train station was a potential customer. And of course they picked up passengers throughout the area and brought them to the train station.
In a ledger identified as “W.R. Spaulding & Son Livery & Feed Stable Book Chester Depot, Vt.,” Ted donated a while back, I found dozens and dozens of entries where Spaulding teams transported passengers around town or to neighboring towns. It wasn’t until mid-1921 that I see entries for a car being used as a taxi. This most likely would have been Ed as the chauffeur.
Today these badges are eagerly sought by collectors. The earlier the badge the better. A three-digit number is more desirable than a four-digit number. Two digits would be better and a single digit would command the most money. Ted’s badge being 1911 and three digits would appeal to many. You almost never see the visor caps.
Instead of an old saying I offer a story Ted told me as told to him by Ed Bushway. Ed Bushway was Ted’s wife Noni’s grandfather.
Warren Clemons, Danny Clemons great-grandfather, ran a sawmill on Clemons Road in Gassetts. One day a stranger showed up at the mill looking for work. Warren didn’t need any help but instead of saying so he decided to entertain himself at the stranger’s expense.
Warren: “What can you do?”
Stranger: “I can do most anything, remove edges, stick lumber, change a sawblade or roll logs.”
Now Warren is going to have some fun. Warren asked, “Do you wear a belt or suspenders?”
Warren: “Do you smoke?”
Warren: “Pipe or cigarettes?”
“What brand?” asked Warren.
Stranger: “No brand, I roll my own.”
Warren replied, “Well I guess I can’t use you. You’ll either be pulling up your pants or rolling cigarettes all day.”
I love these old stories. If you have any, please contact me.