Locating detailed information on earlywagons and stagecoaches isn’t always an easy task. Some particulars can only be found in period catalogsand materials produced by vehicle builders while other data may have to bemined from scarce periodicals, old government records, or otherreferences. While many folks use theinternet as an immediate ‘go-to’ resource, the very nature of massive amountsof data being posted online can make it tough to confirm reliability in allinstances.
Equally important is the point thatthere is a host of well-researched information not currently available on theworld wide web. In fact, many materialsoriginally published decades ago have never been posted on line. A good reminder of this can be found byperusing early issues of “The Carriage Journal.” The magazine, published by the Carriage Association of America (CAA), is well-known for producing quality, well-written,and well-researched details on a host of vehicle styles, including America’sheavier wagons and stage coaches.
A few years ago, I acquired a hardboundcollection of the earliest years of this magazine. Within the Summer 1965 issue, I came across amulti-page story covering the famed 20 Mule Train and giant freight wagons usedto haul borax through Death Valley. Thearticle includes an overview of the wagons as well as discussions related tothe mule teams, muleskinning, the desert terrain, and the early Pacific BoraxCompany.
|The Wheels That Won The West® Archivesincludes countless unpublished and rarely seen photos from America’s first transportationindustry.
In another article from a half centuryago, the CAA covered the restoration of Abbot-Downing’s coach #431. A 1964 write-up highlighted the wagons andcarriages built by James H. Birch of Burlington, N.J. and still another in 1967focused on the firm of Hoopes Bro. and Darlington in West Chester,Pennsylvania. At the time, they werestill busy building wagon wheels; a business started 100 years earlier in1867.
More than quaint stories from anothertime, these are touch points in history; allowing us more opportunity to learnabout specific vehicles while potentially reinforcing provenancedocumentation. Likewise, such articlescan be helpful within identification and authentication work. With a history dating to 1960, the CarriageAssociation of America is a strong organization helping bring like-minded folkstogether while promoting horse-drawn vehicle history and modern dayapplications. They’re located at theKentucky Horse Park in Lexington, Kentucky. If you’ve never been there, it’s well worth the visit.