Everyone remembers their first time… in this case, their first ride in a limousine. Whether it was a ride to the prom or maybe even as part of a wedding party (or bachelor/ette party), the first time you settled into the back of a limo was an experience you always remember. But very few of us have ever really thought about the origin of a limousine and chauffeur ride. Here’s a quick history lesson.
Archaeologists have found evidence of horse-drawn carts existing in prehistoric times, but it wasn’t until the 15th century that the horse-drawn carriage (called “coaches”) became a staple of aristocratic life. These coaches were driven by coachmen, dedicated servants tasked with driving and maintaining the vehicle.
With the advent of the automobile in 1886, motorized cars soon replaced coaches. When this happened, many coachmen retrained to become “chauffeurs.” Chauffeurs, like coachmen, drove their employers from place to place. Chauffeurs were also in charge of maintaining their employers’ cars. They had to act as mechanics, performing routine maintenance and ensuring that their employer’s car was always operating in top shape.
The term “chauffeur” itself comes from the fact that the earliest motorized cars were powered by steam, and the driver had to stoke the engine to keep it running. Because of this, the word “chauffeur” comes from the French word for “stoker.” A female chauffeurs are sometimes referred to as chauffeuses.
Limoges, a province in France, is where the first engine-powered limousine was developed in 1902. “Limousine” comes from the word Limoges. These cars were called that because the first limousine was designed so that a driver sat outside in a covered compartment that resembled the cloak hood worn by the people of the province.