Authenticity In Early Western Vehicles

Published by: David Sneed, Wheels That Won The West® Archives, LLC
Published on:
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
Share This Blog:
Earlier this year,I addressed the term “all-original” as it’s sometimes applied to early wagonsand western vehicles.  This week, we’llcover a term that’s strongly connected to originality but is not always thesame.  ‘Authenticity’ levels within aperiod vehicle are always important considerations.  After all, the more authentic a piece is, the more itproperly reflects a specific region of use, era, purpose, and brand.   

Webster’s Dictionary defines ‘authentic’as something “made or done the same way as an original.”  As a result, for a wagon and its parts to beauthentic, the integrity of the design must match proper period construction.  For example, if I have a predominantlyoriginal wagon built in 1890 but the spring seat is actually one that is amodern re-creation, made to the exact specifications of what would have been fabricatedby the maker in 1890, it is authentic and true to the brand. 

By using original plans and measurements as well as period-appropriate materials, the folks at Hansen Wheel & Wagon Shop have consistently reinforced the powerful legacy of the Concord stage coach.
Authenticating a wooden vehicle and itsparts requires that multiple areas such as timeframe of manufacture, brand, constructionstyle, technology, condition, and period adaptations be evaluated forconsistency with original construction.  Let’stake a look at some of those points...

  • Timeframe of manufacture – Horse-drawnvehicle makers often changed design standards and paint configurations overtime.  As a result, it’s sometimes easyto spot mismatched pieces that are neither original nor authentic to aparticular time period.  As an example...I once knew of someone wanting to incorporate the Winona Indian maiden logowithin some restoration work being done on their vehicle.  The timeframe of the maiden was not a matchto the era of manufacture for the vehicle. So, even though both the wagon and the logo represented the same brand,in that particular case, the re-painted logo would not have been an authentic tieto the original build date of the vehicle.
  • Brands – With tens ofthousands of wooden wagon brands produced in the U.S. (and many Canadian brandsalso seen in the U.S. today), significant efforts are sometimes required to identifyand authenticate a wagon in its entirety. Virtually every brand had telltale design features that can help confirmwhether a part is original or an authentic re-creation mirroring proper designs/styles.
This logo artwork showcasing the Weber brand is a decalcomine transfer originally applied by the maker in the early 20th century.
  • Technology – To some, anold wagon is just an old wagon; meaning that there can be an assumption thatthese pieces are too similar to determine differences.  The reality is that every technology anddesign feature on period wagons had a beginning.  As a result, we’re often able to quicklydetermine an earliest time of manufacture for a particular vehicle.  Regrettably, few professional film makershave realized this and, as of this writing, I’m still waiting for the first, majorwestern movie to consistently use authentic, period-correct wagons.
  • Condition – Sometimesmodern repairs or the addition of authentic parts can cause newer elements of avehicle to appear mismatched with original portions of the structure.  By appropriately aging replaced and restoredparts, the visual integrity of the piece can be reinforced without compromisingthe correct look and feel of the vehicle. Wear marks, stains, and stress spots are all part of the proper historicappearance of a piece.  With that said,I’ll issue at least one disclaimer – Poor application of parts and/or treatmentscan actually hurt a vehicle’s historic integrity, resale value, and visualappeal.
  • Period adaptations – Sometimes anoriginal end-user made adaptations to a wagon or western vehicle to suit aparticular need or preference.  Oneexample could involve the addition of a rein tie to the upper end gate of awagon.  While rein ties could be orderedas part of a wagon, many did not have them. As a result, some farmers, ranchers, and pioneers added their own.  Even though it may not have been an originalpart of certain wagons, its presence can still be an authentic and original representationof how the vehicle was used during a particular timeframe.
Ultimately, for vehicle collectors andenthusiasts, both originality and authenticity are importantconsiderations.  Each has its place in anevaluation process and each is beneficial to the visual integrity of an antiqueset of wheels. 

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.
Go Top