World's Largest Wagon at the Turn of the Century

| 3/30/2010 5:06:17 PM

Sam Moore   
Sam Moore   

In the April issue of Farm Collector was my story about the 1893 Columbian Exposition, a world’s fair held in Chicago to commemorate the 400th anniversary of Columbus stumbling upon the New World in his quest for a shorter route to the riches of the Far East.

In the story was a reference to the “Peace Plow,” built for the exposition by Deere & Co., as well as to the “Largest Wagon in the World,” built and exhibited by the Moline Wagon Co. (At the time, although it had had close ties with Deere & Co. for years, Moline Wagon Co. was still an independent firm and not part of Deere.) The dimensions quoted for the wagon in the story were truly colossal – 42 feet long and 16 feet high with a capacity of 640 bushels of grain. The source for these figures was the May-June 2005 issue of Two Cylinder magazine, normally a reliable source for all things related to Deere & Co. history, as the magazine has access to the Deere archives.

Then, I received an e-mail from Ed Routh (address unknown) asking if the wagon and plow had been preserved. The Peace Plow is presently at the Grand Rapids Public Museum in Grand Rapids, Mich., but there’s no information about the whereabouts of the wagon.

While looking for clues as to what happened to the wagon, something else turned up – a short account published by Missouri State University about the exhibits at the 1904 St. Louis World’s Fair. Among other attractions, the story tells us that “the largest farm wagon ever made” was exhibited there – by the Moline Wagon Co.! The dimensions of the 1904 “largest” wagon are given as 21 feet long and 6-1/2 feet wide with a capacity of 320 bushels of corn. The 1904 wagon’s rear wheels were said to be 9 feet 1-1/2 inches tall, while the fronts were 7 feet 6 inches.

Now, one would think that Moline would have brought the same wagon it had exhibited 11 years before – surely such a curiosity hadn’t been scrapped in that short a time – and a 42-foot wagon would hardly have been sold. And both wagons were touted as being the largest wagon (or farm wagon) ever made.

As my mother used to say, “Something’s rotten in Denmark.”