Several details set Gestring wagons apart from other wagons.
Bridging the differences between typical 19th and 20th century construction styles, Gestring appears to have continued use of riveted sideboard hooks to attach rough lock brakes well into the 1900s. These two metal supports are located on the left side of the box with the fore-positioned hook serving as anchor to the rough lock chain, and the rearmost hook working to hold the end of the chain when not in use. (A rough lock is a chain pulled between two spokes of a rear wheel and then attached to the wagon box. As the wheel moves forward, the chain tightens and stops the wheel from turning. During the 1800s, many wagons used this as the primary or supplementary braking system in especially steep and rugged terrain).
Wider floorboards and hand-carved contours were also carried over. Additionally, a number of Gestring’s box dimensions are different than those of other makers. While the standard box measurement for most manufacturers was 38 inches, Gestring’s typical widths stretched to 43 inches. Overall length of many Gestring beds was also different, measuring 9 feet, 10 inches, as opposed to the more common size of 10-1/2 feet. It’s a dimensional calculation that allows the wagon to be maneuvered and stored in smaller areas. Incredibly, when compared to boxes of similar depths, the shorter-but-wider Gestring box has more cubic inches of capacity than longer boxes. It was an important consideration for farmers, ranchers, freighters and others looking for greater efficiencies.
The paint design of a Gestring wagon generally featured the industry-typical colors of a green box with yellow and white pinstriping. Below the box, the gear was often covered in orange paint with single blue pinstripes centering both sides of each spoke and other parts of the gear. Like most St. Louis wagon manufacturers, Gestring was capable of making about any type or style of wagon including farm, freight, log, road and army wagons. Missouri, Arkansas, Tennessee, Iowa and Illinois were good regional markets for the company, but factory output was shipped throughout the U.S.
David Sneed is a freelance writer, collector, historian, speaker and founder of the Wheels That Won The West® western vehicle archives. Write him at P.O. Box 1081, Flippin, AR 72634; e-mail
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