Identifying Vintage Wagon Manufacturers

An introductory guide to determining vintage wagon manufacturers

| April 2009

“Psst! Hey buddy, wanna buy a watch?”

That dubious phrase conjures up visions of a shifty-eyed street peddler hawking a host of inexpensive, brand name timepieces. The picture also highlights a common risk for collectors.

While a “good deal” might be the holy grail for many, locating a truly great find is much more difficult. Chief among the challenges for vintage farm wagon enthusiasts is the need to know and authenticate wagon manufacturers. Brand name is important because it can greatly affect sentimental, historical and resale values.

With a heritage firmly tied to settlement of the West and the great cattle drives of the 1800s, wood-wheeled farm wagons have been prominent fixtures on the American landscape for centuries. It’s a legacy and viability so strong that some brands were still being built into the 1950s and ’60s. Today, their period look and connection to America’s early history have made quality, original wagons increasingly coveted. Certain brand names have taken on particular significance; a provenance (documented history for a particular collectible) can also benefit values.

Wagon identity crisis

A vintage wagon, like nearly anyone or anything today, is susceptible to lost, mistaken and even stolen identities. The ravages of time, weather and neglect have taken a heavy toll on the majority of these retired workhorses. With most relegated to the outdoors and other poorly controlled environments, natural deterioration of recognizable marks only adds to the number of lost and easily mistaken characteristics.

12/3/2017 11:06:47 PM

Love the site and information that I have found so far. I am the Great-Grandson of Charles H. Davis of the Davis Wagon Co (Columbus, GA) and am trying to find out anything that I can about the company, history, wagon types that they manufactured, and obviously any pictures, drawings, etc that I can get my hands on. Thank you so much! Jason Ford (770) 597-4440

7/6/2016 1:56:16 PM

I have a 1921 JD Plow Co. General Catalog J with 28 pages of wagon sales literature. JD had a Wagon Works @ Moline, IL making farm & mountain wagons. Also, JD had the Ft. Smith AR Wagon Co. making farm, mountain and business wagons for the south & west. Page 264 of the catalog describes the wood used in their wagons: "Gears are made of the highest grade of clear, straight-grained oak and hickory, thoroughly air-seasoned. We are assured of a continuous supply, as we have our own timber tracts and mills. Axles are hand-split hickory." Very interesting read/study & I would be happy to answer any questions about info within the catalog. Thks.

6/29/2016 3:35:40 PM

I just acquired an antique wooden wagon with steel wheels. I believe it was probably pulled by an old tractor as no brake assembly was ever attached. What is the best way to find the manufacturer?