The “simple” farm wagon. It’s a verbal reference and perception I’ve heard many times yet remains one that defies logic. The point becomes even clearer when attempting to identify non-obvious brands in the numerous surviving examples of nineteenth and early twentieth century wagons. So, how are these seemingly simple vehicles complicated? First, it’s important to recognize that similarities between brands generally exist only with casual overviews or cursory glances. Detailed examinations can help point to specific brand identities while also exposing significant variations within engineered construction, design, materials and features.
Differences can include but, are certainly not limited to… track width, weight capacities, wheel height, tire width, tire design, tire rivets, tire bolts, felloe rivets, hub bands, felloe contours, hub dimensions, wheel boxings, skein type, skein size, axle type and construction, sand board plate design, sand board design, bolster plate design, wheel wrench, hammer strap, stay chain hook placement and design, hound bracing, hound configuration, circle iron design, slider design, sway bar design, reach parts, reach plate, bolster standard/stake design, reach box design, tongue hardware design, types of wood used and specific wood contour elements.
Box size, box ironing, floor board design and dimensions, floor cleat designs, rub iron designs, brake hanger designs, brake shoe shapes and attachment style, individual sideboard dimensions, wooden sideboard cleat shape, cleat dimensions and fastening method, grain cleat design, box ironing design, running board and associated hardware design, box rods, box rod washer, box rod nut, footboard and associated hardware, end gate designs, brake lever, ratchet and rod design as well as rein tie, seat and spring designs all further contribute to potential variations and diversity of functions.
With all of this mentioned, none of these distinctions include the complicated, scientific and artistic aspects of wheel dish, pitch, gather, vehicle draft, balance and tire metallurgy; Not to mention variations in paint chemistry, application and design - or any of the numerous variables within the hygroscopic aspects of wood itself.
Ultimately, these differences – and even more – are just part of the all-but-countless reasons that the “simple” farm wagon is far from an elementary product. These rolling workhorses are complex creations of functional art and science with all major parts engineered for specific benefits and achievements. The leading heavy vehicle brands of the day recognized the importance of solid quality, innovation, performance and customer satisfaction. As a result, they designed, built and leveraged those distinctions with patents, promotions and purposes that are often emulated today.