Time Traveler: Collecting Horse-Drawn Wagons

Iowa collector J.R. Pearson focuses on horse-drawn wagons, especially those brands distributed by John Deere.

| April 2008

Just one buggy ride with a friend in 1990 convinced J.R. Pearson that he needed to find his own horse and buggy so he could enjoy the experience of a leisurely drive at his own convenience.

"It was so peaceful and quiet," the northwest Iowa farmer remembers. "We just went for about half a mile. When we got back to my farm, I told my friend, 'I have to have one of these.' He told me he'd sell me that one."

That's how J.R. acquired his first horse-drawn vehicle, a John Deere Reliance buggy. In the following years, J.R.'s woodworking skills led him to build wagons for the horses he was buying. After making a few vehicles of his own, he became interested in wagons he saw at auctions.

"The first wagon I bought was a John Deere," he says. "I didn't plan that, it just happened. It cost me $75. But since I started out with John Deere, I stayed with it until I had a whole series of John Deere wagons."

J.R. has acquired 16 triple-box wagons made by a variety of companies and sold by Deere & Co. as early as 1881, including Old Hickory, Mitchell, Moline, Fish Bros., Wisconsin, Standard, Smith and Davenport. His John Deere collection includes four triple-box wagons, an Ajax, Triumph, Triumph Special, regular John Deere and several 802s with flare boxes. Other pieces in his collection are from the Stoughton, Newton and Moline lines. J.R. also has a Standard Oil wagon he restored, as well as a dray wagon and peddler's wagon.

"I have 35 spring seats with different wagon company names on them," he says. "One is a Deere & Webber, which is pretty rare. I have John Deere wagons that range from the old triple boxes to the 802 and 953. I even have three John Deere flare boxes, which could someday be scarce."