In the central region of France, at the base of the soaring Massif Central the land calms softly into rolling foothills. Perhaps these gentle slopes are what attracted the warring Gaulish tribe of the Lemovices to settle here. The Celtic warriors had a long and noble reputation, with their name appearing amongst the records of those who opposed Julias Cesar during the Gallic War of 52 BC, but by 500 AD the world was rapidly changing and this region of central France would be fruitful for a tribe looking to plant roots and raise cattle. Over the next thousand years the land was good to the Lemovices and eventually the area became named in honor of the tribe, leaving a region still known today as Limousin.
As relatively tranquil and idyllic the Limousin region may seem in comparison to the mountainous peaks they neighbor, those very same mountains could and often did give rise to torrential rains and howling winds which would tear through the hills and valleys of what had become a peaceful agricultural community. Farming must be done on a schedule, no matter what obstacles Mother Nature throws in your way, so the Limousin farmers developed a unique kind of hooded garment, a jutting, long-billed cap that covered the head like a personal shelter.
In the 1700 and 1800s carriages became more and more popular as means of personal transport, particularly for those of wealth and high social standing. A closed carriage was the most desirable form for persons of a respectable station, and as time progressed the carriages themselves became increasingly ornate. To truly advertise not only your riches but also your largess to your servants, eventually carriages were built with a jutting roof the extended to the front of the carriage, allowing your chauffeur to drive the carriage without being exposed to the rain. No one knows who exactly, but at some point someone noticed that the chauffeur protecting roofs on these most elegant carriages resembled the hooded cloaks worn by the farmers of the Limousin region and a name was coined.
The modern automotive limousine wasn’t really established until the 1920s. Granted, certain car manufacturers such as Cadillac, and Dusenberg were making long cars, stretched out vehicles with room for a large group in the back and a chauffeur up front, but these were simply larger versions of the typical car. The real innovation cam from the Armbruster Company of Fort Smith, Arkansas. Armbruster was building cars for a new kind of client, entertainers. Big Band leaders such as Benny Goodman and Glen Miller went to Armbruster for ‘stretch’ vehicles with which they could transport not only all the members of their big band orchestras, but their luggage and instruments as well. Soon the country became entranced with the image of these national celebrities, driving from city to city, and being met by adoring crowds as they stepped out of their ‘limousines’.
While Armbruster may not be a household name the company did not simply vanish. After merging with Stageway Coaches and further expanding the idea of stretch limousines by building a six-door Cadillac funeral limo the combined company was eventually bought by Lincoln Motors. Lincoln is still the leading manufacturer of limousines today. The nest time you are in a limousine at a wedding or even a JFK Airport Limousine, check and see, there’s a really good chance it’s a Lincoln.
As you sit back and enjoy the luxurious comfort you can imagine what it was like to be crowded in a similar car with 10 or so musicians, trudging down muddy country roads to your next show in Indiana, Illinois or even Iowa!