Dodge Mortised Hubs

Published by: David Sneed, Wheels That Won The West® Archives, LLC
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I recently watched a ‘brain teaser’ television programhighlighting a drawing that initially appeared to be a rabbit.  After closer inspection, though, it becameobvious that it could also be interpreted as a duck.  To that point, have you ever looked atsomething and recognized a distinction that others didn’t immediatelynotice?  That’s just the kind ofattention to detail it takes to unravel many of the modern day mysteries ofearly wagons and western vehicles.  Constructionpoints, in particular, offer many clues as to potential makers, regions of use,purposes of use, rarity, value, and more.
When looking at a western vehicle there can benumerous possible variations in construction, design, and features.  In fact, the wheels alone can harbor dozensof differences.  Many of thosedistinctions can deal with the way the spokes are attached to the hub.  Some lighter spring wagons may use a Sarvenhub while heavier wheels may employ an Archibald hub.  Still others may utilize a metal-clad woodenhub.  The more traditional methods use apainted wooden hub - but even then, there can still be variables in thedesign.  
- Typical Wood HubSpoke Arrangement -
Most often in early wagons, wooden hubs are mortisedto accept evenly spaced and similarly positioned spokes.  Occasionally though, the spokes may bestaggered, with odd/even spokes alternating positions on the hub.  These designs are referred to as “dodgemortised hubs” and they have a purpose beyond the unique and artistic look theydeliver.  Early builders utilizing thisfeature commonly claimed that the arrangement helped brace, stiffen andstrengthen the wheel.  In fact, manysmall child’s wagons from the period also used this configuration on thewheels. 

 - Dodge Mortised Spokes -
Just as with modern day auto makers, early wagonmanufacturers used their fair share of innovative design, engineeredadvantages, and advertising hyperbole to set themselves apart from competitors.  Today, we do ourselves and the individualvehicles proper justice when we notice these unique features.  Ultimately, they’re all clues helping topiece together important stories from America’s early transportation history.   
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