Building A Western Vehicle Library

Published by: David Sneed, Wheels That Won The West® Archives, LLC
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Locating authoritative and well-studied resources covering early wood-wheeled vehicles like stagecoaches and wagons as well as a broad contingent of business, ranch and military transports can be challenging.
From my own experience, it’s a quest that’s taken years (and is still ongoing).  The search started from a simple desire to learn but, was compounded with frustration when I couldn’t find sufficient direction.  I ultimately discovered that there’s a good reason I couldn’t obtain answers to all my questions – the subject is just too large and the pieces of the puzzle too scattered or lost! 

After almost two decades of daily research, I still encounter folks looking for that one comprehensive book that covers everything.  I’ll admit, it would be nice to have such a piece and while I try to never say ‘never’… truth is, it will never happen.  Why?  Because with tens of thousands of known makers and even more variations in design and manufacturing methods, the horse-drawn vehicle industry was just too massive to authoritatively and concisely cover in one simple volume today.   

My personal pursuit of reliable and documentable information began before the internet had established itself as a household necessity.  Early on, I was fortunate to find a used book store that sold western books in their “Americana” section.  For years, I frequented this place, occasionally stumbling across a ‘find’ and purchasing it.  I learned to comb through the footnotes, endnotes and bibliographies of each of these discoveries in an effort to uncover even more valuable answers and details. 

Within a few years, the world wide web had grown to sufficient bandwidth and postings that it began to be more useful in locating primary source materials.  (A word of caution and a reminder here that while the internet is full of information, not every posting on-line can be supported by facts.) 

To start, grow and more fully develop your own western vehicle library, it’s important to keep a number of points in mind like…

-          Dividing your focus into specific categories of interest can prove beneficial as it helps highlight the depth of the subjects.  Vehicle types, makers, geographic regions, historic ventures and/or specific time periods are just some of the potential categories to consider.

-          Scour bibliographies of books and articles for previously unknown works that may reinforce your interests.

-          Subscribe to publications produced by organizations with similar interests…i.e… The Carriage Journal magazine, Farm Collector magazine, Wagon Tracks newsletter (Santa Fe Trail Association), National Stagecoach & Freight Wagon Association,  American Chuck Wagon Association and others.

-          Ask noted writers, historians and/or groups to recommend specific books.  I provided an abbreviated list to the National Stagecoach & Freight Wagon Association a few years ago and I believe it’s still on their website.

-          While there are some great contemporary works available today, remember that many early resources for antique wagons and coaches will be out-of-print.  You may be successful finding more modern works in places like or Barnes & Noble but, others may require a bit of sleuthing within outlets like Ebay or smaller firms selling collector books and ephemera.    

The Wheels That Won The West® Archives started with one book purchased in the mid-1990’s.  Today, this extensive resource is made up of hundreds of rare books and even more original catalogs and early sales materials.  Combined with thousands of primary source images, the collection has become an essential aspect of our research and ability to share historically accurate details with western vehicle enthusiasts the world over.  
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