The Horse-Drawn Omnibus in Victorian Visual Culture
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In nineteenth-century Britain, the omnibus, a horse-drawn public bus, profoundly changed the nature of urban space. It was the first mass public transport technology in London and as such, fulfilled the mobility needs of the growing middle classes. Because of its novel function and eventual ubiquity on the streets of the capital, it appears as the subject for a variety of visual materials produced during the period. This project examines Victorian paintings, illustrations, sheet music, and print materials that depict people in and around omnibuses from the perspective of their production, content, circulation, and critical reception. It identifies a number of themes that can be organized along spatial, gender, and class lines and which, taken together, point to the concerns and anxieties felt by the passenger populace. Overall, this project looks to visual culture to explore how the Victorians navigated what was becoming a more spatially democratic world, and how different urban spaces structured the experience of the modern city.