Answers to Remaining True/False Questions

Published by: David Sneed, Wheels That Won The West® Archives, LLC
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As part of our continuing efforts toshow the depth of America’s first transportation industry, we’ve taken the lastfour weeks of our blogs and focused on three dozen questions.  It’s been an interesting journey, peering through a series of small windows into the vast number of topics related to early wagonmakers.  Today, we’ll look at the answersto the final dozen questions, sharing insights into a subject that remainslargely unexplored and still far too full of false impressions andspeculation...

25)  Wagons built in the U.S. between 1865 and 1895 changed very little in design.

While many tend to lump all woodenwagons into a single category of primitive uniformity, the truth is that therewere many differences in these vehicles throughout history.  The thirty-year period after America’s CivilWar saw countless changes in wagon building. In many ways, the war served as a catalyst of sorts; stirring innovativeideas, designs, functions, and features of these heavier transports.  As a result, patent applications grewsubstantially following the Civil War. Vehicle companies took ownership of proprietary distinctions andintellectual properties, reinforcing those purported advantages in advertising,sales promotions, and even event marketing efforts. 

26)  Stencils for painting brand names on wagons were in use as early as the 1870’s.

Prior to the 1880’s, most builders ofname-brand wagons were painting the striping and ornamental designs free-hand on theirvehicles.  Even as this ‘personal touch’was taking place, the brand name, itself, was often applied with the aid ofstencils.

27)  The famous showman, P.T. Barnum, helped promote theJackson Wagon Company.

Absolutely true.  This is another case of a firm withinAmerica’s first transportation industry recognizing the power of celebrity andcapitalizing on it.  As the story goes,in 1882, P.T. Barnum finalized the purchase of Jumbo the elephant from theLondon zoo and wanted to ship him to America as a new addition to hiscircus.  At the time, the elephant waspromoted as the largest known animal in the world – nearing 7 tons.  According to Mr. Barnum, due to the massiveweight channeling through each of the elephant’s legs, the city would not allowJumbo to walk on the city streets.  Toget around the obstacle, Barnum claims he wrote for and received a Jacksonbrand wagon with its new truss rod axle.  Jumbo was loaded onto the wagon and moved to the steamship bound forAmerica – purportedly with no trouble. Countless promotional flyers, catalogs, editorials, and otheradvertising recorded the event as the Jackson firm made the most of Barnum’sendorsement for years.  As a side note,our common use of the word ‘jumbo’ can be traced to the name of this elephant.

This rare flyer illustrating 'Jumbo' theelephant in a Jackson wagon was produced by the company to help promote thestrength of their truss axle wagon.
28)  The Luedinghaus Wagon Company used a peacock as abrand icon.

While Luedinghaus wagons were made inSt. Louis, it was another firm in that city that used a peacock for its brandicon – That being the Linstroth Wagon Company. 

29)  No wagon companies in America were building largefreight wagons after 1900.

Au Contraire.  This statement is also false.  Many of America’s best known wagon builderswere still producing huge freight wagons during the first decade of thetwentieth century.

30)  The first Chevrolet and Buick vehicles built in theU.S. were manufactured in the buildings where Flint brand wagons had previouslybeen made. 

Sharing the history of America’s firsttransportation industry has long been a passion of mine.  So, when we came upon an opportunity to add atransitional piece to our collection, I jumped on it.  In this case, the ‘transitional’ piece I’mreferring to is one of the last Flint brand wagons built in the same factory that America’sfirst Chevys and Buicks were built in. 

After producing thousands of wagons, the Flint Wagon factory became home for many of the first Buick and Chevrolet autos produced in the U.S.  This exceptional survivor is part of our early vehicle collection.
31)  The term ‘dead-axle’ wagon refers to a vehicle witha weakened axle.

This is false.  ‘Dead-axle’ refers to an animal-drawn vehicle that does not utilize springs or thorough-braces.  Some early, colloquial mentions of this term actually shortened it to the phrase 'dead-ax'.

32)  International Harvester revolutionized the wagonindustry with the first swiveling reach patent applied for in 1919.

Even though IHC widely touted theirpatented swivel reach in the late teens and throughout the 1920’s, the concepthad received multiple patents during the half century prior to IHC’s designimprovement.   

33)  The Lindsey Wagon Company in Laurel, Mississippi wasthe only U.S. builder of eight-wheel logging wagons.

While Lindsey is certainly one of thebest-known builders of eight-wheel logging wagons, they were far from being theonly manufacturer of these designs. 

34)  Harrington Manufacturing Company of Peoria, Illinoiswas a significant manufacturer of Rural Mail wagons.

Rural Free Delivery (RFD) mail wagonsbecame a common site on America’s backroads and more scenic routes after1890.  Numerous builders focused theirefforts on the manufacture of these vehicles. They were especially designed for hauling mail along rugged, unimprovedroads as well as throughout notoriously unpredictable weather.  Among the many notable brands concentratingon this trade was the Harrington Manufacturing Company of Peoria,Illinois. 

Beginning in the late 1800’s, the U.S.Postal Service began free delivery of mail to rural customers.  This RFD (Rural Free Delivery) service openedup a whole new market for horse drawn vehicle makers. 
35)  Using prison labor to manufacture wagons was seldomdone in the 1800’s.

On the contrary, there were a number ofwagon makers (and other industries as well) that made significant use of prisonlabor in the 1800’s.  The practice wasdecried by builders using labor from traditional markets.  Why?  Because, prison labor was extremely inexpensive compared to the costs required tohire workers in the free market.  As aresult, the scales of competitive price advantage were often tipped in thefavor of those using prison labor.  It was a practice that, ultimately, was overturned through legislative action.  A large percentage of those that had been successful in building wagons with prison labor were not able to compete when forced to hire outside the walls of confinement.
36)   Fires, whilefeared, were seldom experienced by wagon makers.

This is a grossly false statement.  Early wagon and carriage makers were plaguedby fire.  Wood frame structures, seasonedwood parts, flammable solvents, live coals, open flames/sparks, oil-stainedfloors, and greasy rags often conspired to generate the ultimate disaster.  The problems were so rampant that monthlytrade publications regularly published the massive losses and associatedchallenges for individual makers and the industry as a whole.

The last few weeks have been full ofdiverse topics as we’ve taken a little different tact to help highlight thevastness of the subject we’re researching. Along the way, we’ve worked to include details on several differentstyles of vehicles as well.  As wecontinue sharing all-but-lost details from America’s wood-wheeled past, we’reworking on even more stories and have a great deal more to unveil in the comingmonths.  Stay tuned.  There’s a lot on the horizon.    

Please Note:  As with each of our blog writings, all imagery and text is copyrighted with All Rights Reserved.  The material may not be broadcast, published, rewritten, or redistributed without prior written permission from David E. Sneed, Wheels That Won The West® Archives, LLC
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