Identifying Vintage Wagon Manufacturers
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Once ordinary, now unique
Wood-wheeled farm wagons were the most prevalent vehicle on the farms, plains, and ranches of 19th and early 20th century America. Even with such a dominant historical presence, they are still among the most unknown today. Beyond the research challenges of an enormously large horse-drawn transportation industry or poorly kept records from maker to maker, the greatest obstacle in learning much about vintage wagons may be that almost from the beginning, their go-anywhere, do-it-all design made them so popular that they became ordinary; ordinary to the point of being taken for granted and, ultimately, counted as useless. The result is that too many of these historical connections to our ancestry have been overlooked and left to rot in a forgotten barn, shed or field.
For every wagon desperately clinging to the last remnants of its wood, paint and identifiable markings, there are hundreds of thousands that have slipped away into a nameless, faceless obscurity. While some are forever lost, there’s a growing recognition and appreciation for those still in existence. Ironically, the same wagons that sold for a few hundred dollars when new can now fetch several thousand dollars. Just like other classic vehicles today, factors such as quality, rarity, condition, originality and the brand name have a tremendous impact on auction prices.
Perhaps though, the real value isn’t monetary after all. As most who have seen an antique wagon on display can confirm, these rolling icons have a way of drawing attention. Maybe the old wheels remind us of a simpler time, a greater sense of community or possibly it’s a feeling of belonging; a connection to the hopes, dreams and raw will that built America. Perhaps those are the real hidden truths we can all enjoy from these relics of yesterday still loaded with spirit for tomorrow. FCFor a list of resources and to read a first-hand account of identifying two vintage wagons, check out: “Wagon Identities Lost and Found.”David Sneed is an early western vehicle historian, writer, collector and founder of the Wheels That Won The West® archives. Contact him by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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