Looking for the Oldest Known Antique Jack

The Fairgrove (Mo.) Historical & Preservation Society is looking for the oldest known antique jack

| September 2012

  • Conestoga Wagon Jack
    The Conestoga wagon jack on the chair dates to 1795. Shown with it are a farrier’s toolbox and a wagon jack dating to the 1800s.
    Photo by Ron McGinnis
  • 1795 Conestoga Wagon Jack
    The Conestoga wagon jack marked “1795.” 
    Photo by Ron McGinnis

  • Conestoga Wagon Jack
  • 1795 Conestoga Wagon Jack

Before I began writing the story about Larry Voris’ antique jack collection, I showed him the oldest known piece of equipment in the Fair Grove (Mo.) Historical & Preservation Society’s collection. Pondering the 18th century jack made of wood and wrought iron, we wondered when the first jacks were manufactured.   

The historical society’s Conestoga jack, still showing traces of original red paint on its wooden casing, was purchased at a Waverly, Iowa, horse-drawn farm equipment sale 35 years ago for $70. While working on another project, I learned that Conestoga wagons reached their peak activity between 1820 and 1840. Pennsylvania Dutch builders worked with blacksmiths to form ironworks and lifting jacks.

After rubbing on the old jack’s notched iron lifting post, I saw “1795” hammered into its worn surface. More than 200 years ago that jack hoisted up to 5 tons of cargo (plus the wagon’s weight) every day, so the driver could grease wheel hubs to keep them from squealing on linchpin axles.

A passage in R.A. Salaman’s Dictionary of Woodworking Tools (1975) describes a factory-made “timber jack” built in Germany in 1677 that is similar to the historical society’s Conestoga wagon jack. If you know of an older jack than that one, email me at manning39@msn.com.

Read more about antique jack collector Larry Voris in the article Need a Lift with Antique Jacks? 


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