If you’re like me, if someone asks you what color an Amish buggy is, the first thing that comes to mind is either “black”, or “gray” – probably depending on if you’re more familiar with the Lancaster County Amish and their leaden-toned carriages, or those in the Midwest where buggies are usually black.
Black and gray are by far the most common Amish buggy colors. But Amish buggies come in a few other, much rarer hues.
The story behind each color is probably more complicated than we can explore in a short post—if it is even accurately known.
Below I’ve shared info on where you’ll find buggies of these colors, a couple of possible origin ideas, and a photo of each.
- Brown – You’ll find this color of buggy mainly in the New Wilmington, Pennsylvania settlement. It’s an old community—started in 1847—and one of the larger Amish settlements, with around 2,500 people. Other places you see the brown top are in New Wilmington daughter communities in New York state.
One theory suggest this color may originate from a type of circus tent canvas (see Stephen Scott, Plain Buggies: Amish, Mennonite, and Brethren Horse-Drawn Transportation, p. 58).
- White – If you see a white buggy, you’re looking at a member of the Nebraska Amish. But, you’re definitely not in Nebraska. Confused yet?
“Nebraska” is the nickname given to a certain very traditional Amish group, found mainly in Pennsylvania (but also Ohio and New York, though not the Cornhusker State). The name comes from the home state of an early bishop who helped the group get organized in the late 1800s.
- Yellow – Lemon yellow Amish buggies seem like someone’s idea of a practical joke. But Amish do drive buggies in a couple of different hues of yellow in communities in Pennsylvania. The Byler Amish of Mifflin County, PA use buggies like the ones you see in the photo below.
Where did yellow come from? It’s possible the early buggy tops in this community were made from a type of oilcloth once used for raincoats which had a yellow color (see Plain Buggies, p. 56).
Are these buggies easier to see? Such a flashy color almost seems to defeat the point of a Slow-Moving Vehicle triangle, but as you can see from the photo, Byler buggies carry those too.
Color is just one aspect that varies from buggy to buggy. And Amish buggies are just one indicator of differences between Amish groups.
But they might be the most eye-catching difference, and one that only adds to the richness of Amish society.
Erik Wesner writes about the Amish in print and online. His first book, Success Made Simple: An Inside Look at Why Amish Businesses Thrive was based on 60 interviews Erik conducted with Amish business owners, as well as his own experiences living and working in Amish communities from Pennsylvania to Iowa. He has contributed to Amish-themed articles featured in Entrepreneur Magazine, The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, and other print media. He also has served as a consultant for numerous authors of Amish fiction and non-fiction and writes the Amish America blog. His upcoming book is called 50 Fascinating Amish Facts.
Purchase Erik’s book here.