A "livery stable" was a place where travelers could shelter, feed, and water their horses while traveling.
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The Livery Stable and Blacksmith Shop

Horse travel was the most common method of transportation in the 1800s. Just as most towns today have a convenience store where travelers refuel their vehicles, early Iowa towns had livery stables where travelers “refueled” their horses.

Visitors could leave their horses at the livery stable while staying in town. It was a hotel for horses where the animals were fed, watered and provided with a stall. At the livery stable people who did not own a horse could rent one. Buggies, wagons and sleighs could be rented too.

Men often gathered at the livery stable to talk. It was a place where they relaxed, told stories or exchanged information and ideas.

The Blacksmith

A person of great skill worked in the blacksmith shop. Blacksmiths had studied metalcraft and could shape iron into tools, horseshoes and wagon-wheel rims. The ring of the blacksmith's hammer striking the anvil and the clop, clop of horses' shod hoofs were part of the familiar everyday sounds of a town.

The Need Disappears

The livery stable and the blacksmith shop were two businesses found in most Iowa communities in the early 1900s. Both provided services that people needed. The skill and hard work required of the owners was valued by most people. By the mid-1900s there was no longer a need for livery stables and blacksmiths. Jobs that were once essential to a community became unnecessary as horses were replaced by automobiles.

Adapted from original article by Lisa K. Abel, Nena Smiddy, Jane Mitchell, Christie Dailey, The Goldfinch 3, No. 3 (Feb. 1982). Iowa City: State Historical Society of Iowa.
© State Historical Society of Iowa



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