Driver, roll-up the partition please: A brief history of the limousine

June 11, 2014 12:00 AM

Long before Beyonce made her sultry request to her limousine driver in "Partition", limos have been a sign of wealth, fame and a certain notoriety. Special occasions from weddings to prom are, for many, incomplete without a stretched out vehicle and chauffeur, and people are willing to shell out big money for the limousine experience. 

At First Class Limousine in New York, prom night can cost over $1000 and wedding packages start at $475 for two people. Business Insider reports that in 2013, the average American family spent $1,139 on prom, with limousine costs high on the list of reasons why spending on this dance has soared into the thousands. 

History of the limousine

So just what is it about the limousine that prompts high school students and newlyweds to pay such high prices? Why is every Hollywood star and popular musician climbing out of the back of a stretch limo onto the red carpet instead of out of a classic car or luxury vehicle? What is it about the limo that screams "fame"?

Limousines as chauffeured vehicles date back to 1700s?, when, Lone Star Executive Limousine says,{no comma at the start of an incomplete quote} "lavishly decorated horse-drawn carriages were used to transport the well-to-do from one place to another." The name 'limousine' came from the a region in France, Limousin, where a style of cloak whose hood, when drawn, strongly resembled the private covered portion of the carriage. 

The first motorized limo appeared in 1902. In these early models, the driver sat outside and the passengers rode in a separate enclosed compartment. It wasn't until 1928, however, that the first stretch limos came onto the scene. That year, Armbruster, an auto repair company out of Fort Smith, Arkansas, stretched a vehicle to accommodate jazz musicians and their instruments and the limo as we know it today was born. Soon after, other musical groups and prominent celebrities, attracted by the spacious, separate seating arrangements and the spectacle of a whole entourage pouring out from a single vehicle, took to the limo for their travel needs. Being relieved of the responsibility of driving to premiers, awards ceremonies, concerts and other events naturally had its perks as well. 

Today, riding in a limousine has less to do with the actual seating arrangements than the aura of fame, status and mystery the long, stretched out cars impart. Unless, of course, like Beyonce, you hope to take advantage of the private compartment and have the driver roll up the partition, please. 

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