Over the years, I’ve spent a lot of timesoaking up details from countless, horse-drawn vehicle catalogs, photos, patents,ledgers, directories, and even blueprints. The exercise has been vital to understanding the evolution and changeswithin individual brands as well as capturing unparalleled insights into America’sfirst transportation industry. Even so,the value of traveling to different locations and viewing actual vehicles intheir native surroundings is irreplaceable. From the rugged terrain of the mountainous West to the wide open feel ofthe plains, every old set of wheels was built as much for a certain region aswell as a particular purpose.
From California to Virginia, Texas to North Dakota, and Mississippi to Delaware, I’ve had the privilege of viewing publicand private collections all over the U.S. Some are focused on specific designs while others encompass a broader range of vehicle types. One of the most diverse collections I’ve come across is the group gathered by Doug Hansen in Letcher, SouthDakota. While many know Doug for theearly vehicles he and his team have restored or built, fewer have seen the fullspectrum of his personal collection. Recently,he shared several photos with us that showed nine different western vehicles inhis collection. From an early springwagon and Concord coach to a pair of large freighters and heavy-duty logwagons, these old wheels do a good job of conveying the wide range of vehiclesused on the frontier.
|The wide assortment of transportation in Doug Hansen’s collection helps reinforce the different vehicle designs used on America’s western frontier.
One of the rarer pieces in Hansen’scollection is a Peter Schuttler brand log truck. It’s a vehicle equipped with several uniquefeatures including a patented axle truss. Schuttler built four different models of this design with capacitiesranging from three to six tons. With itengineered to carry so much weight, the gear is fashioned with massive bolstersand hounds as well as beefy brake blocks and hubs. It also features an oscillating reach fornavigation of rugged, uneven terrain. Provenance of the vehicle ties it to the famed Homestake Mine in Lead,South Dakota. The mine closed just afterthe turn of the 21st century but, it was once considered to be the largest goldmine in North America. Gold wasdiscovered there in 1876 and silver was also uncovered in the mine. According to Hansen, there is a sister wagonto this one in the Days of ‘76 Museumin Deadwood, South Dakota. From the goldmining connection to the brand, itself, these wheels carry some intriguinghistory.
Also in Hansen’s collection is a stagecoachwith roots to the Redig, South Dakota community. This special mud wagon was acquired in 1997 andrestored by Hansen and his team in Letcher. Since completion, it’s been driven on numerous historic trails,including the legendary Ft. Pierre to Deadwood route. The period photo below is part of thevehicle’s personal history or provenance, providing greater documentation and authenticationto the piece.
|Doug Hansen purchased this historic stagecoach nearly two decades ago and restored it to its original glory.
Among other vehicles in the collectionis a tall-sided Studebaker freight wagon that Hansen restored several yearsago. These heavy vehicles were essentialin keeping the West outfitted throughout the mid to late 1800’s. Nonetheless, most of these giant transportshave not survived so it’s important to give due credit when we run acrossone. Of course, farm wagons were also apopular design in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. While most of these have also disappeared,millions were created so there are naturally more that have survived. A few years back, Hansen shared that he cameacross an original, triple box Mitchell farm wagon. Mitchell is a legendary brand with deep rootsin the 1800’s. He was fortunate to findit in exceptional condition with a great deal of original paint.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.
Clearly, Doug has an eye for rare piecesand we appreciate the opportunity to see a few of his keepsakes. From time to time, we’ll be sharing othercollections of America’s early wagons, coaches, and western vehicles. So, if you have a special set of wheels or anentire warehouse full that you’d like us to feature here, drop us a line. We’d love to hear from you. It’s always a pleasure to see and sharehistory. Have a great week!By the way, if you haven't signed up to receive this weekly blog via e-mail, just type your address in the "Follow By E-mail" section above. You'll receive a confirmation e-mail that you'll need to verify before you're officially on board. Remember - IF YOU DON'T VERIFY - you won't receive the emailed blogs. So, make sure you check the email confirmations and verify. Once that's done, you'll receive an email every time we update the blog. Please don't hesitate to let us know if we can be of assistance. We appreciate your continued feedback and look forward to sharing even more throughout the year.
|Diversity, provenance, quality condition, and high levels of originality are strong elements to have in any early vehicle collection.