Identifying Wagon Types…

Published by: David Sneed, Wheels That Won The West® Archives, LLC
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It has a curved body, lynch pins on the axles, twisted chains, forged metal work, side-mounted tool box, raked end gates, more than 8 bows and is known for freighting product along the eastern U.S. – Sounds like a Conestoga, right?  Not necessarily. 
While this seemingly specific description could easily describe a Conestoga wagon from the 18th or 19th centuries, it’s also a general enough overview to cover another wagon style that is sometimes confused with the legendary Conestoga.  These other designs were called ‘Crooked Bed’ wagons, ‘Tobacco’ wagons, 'Road Wagons' or even ‘Southern Schooners’ and were made by a number of builders along the south/eastern coast of the United States.  George Nissen, C.F. Nissen, J.I. Nissen, and J.C. Spach are among the most often mentioned manufacturers today. 
 While similarities in design elements do exist between these vehicles and the venerable Conestoga, the tobacco wagons are significantly smaller and built much, much lighter.  The box frame and bows of a Conestoga can easily overshadow a person alongside it.  However, as shown in the accompanying photos of this post, these Crooked Bed wagons are much more down-to-earth in size.  Those traits translate into a vehicle that is very light, nimble and maneuverable; not to mention that the smaller design also made it economical to own and much easier to remove the box than with a heavy Conestoga freighter.   The important thing to remember in any comparison of early vehicles is that similarity does not necessarily mean 'same'.  Ultimately, raising awareness of these differences helps us develop a more accurate provenance for a set of wheels while underscoring pertinent American history and associated vehicle values.   
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