In 1869 the Commonwealth of Massachusetts passed the first legislation in the United States allowing the use of public funds for transporting children to and from school. Over the next half century, the other 48 states followed suit.
In its earliest days, long before bright yellow paint and flashing red lights, the school bus took the form of a long, wood-framed wagon, pulled by horses or mules, with wide planks running the length of the sides, to serve as benches. Children boarded and exited the wagons at the rear to avoid frightening the animals.
In the anthology Good Old Days Remembers the Little Country School House, Emma B. Lee recalls chilly Indiana mornings, riding to school with classmates, in a wagon drawn by two horses. "The only heat we had came from one of those little round kerosene heaters that was anchored behind the driver's seat. That didn't make much heat for a wagon big enough to haul 18 to 20 kids."