Is This All That’s Left?

Published by: David Sneed, Wheels That Won The West® Archives, LLC
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For decades, we’ve made it a point to search for rare, surviving examples of America’s early wagon and coach industry.  In the process, we’ve been extremely fortunate to help locate and preserve important vehicles and materials related to legendary builders like Studebaker, Peter Schuttler, Joseph Murphy, Bain, Moline, Mitchell, Kentucky, Luedinghaus, Gestring, Fish Bros., Jackson and so many more.  When it comes to tracking vehicles, one company that has largely eluded us is the Kansas Manufacturing Company.  While we do have access to a few scarce pieces of Kansas literature, finding one of the thousands of wagons they built has been much tougher.

The Leavenworth, Kansas firm has a great western history, in part because it was owned and operated by the well-known U.S. Senator, freighter and railroad builder, Alexander Caldwell.  Mr. Caldwell’s company was one of several large wagon makers utilizing prison labor and in less than a handful of years between 1876 and 1880, they built hundreds of two, four and six mule army wagons as well as at least 50 ambulance wagons and 25 Dougherty wagons.
Posted immediately above is one of the Dougherty wagons from the Kansas Manufacturing Company that may have been produced during this timeframe.  This vehicle is housed in the Cheyenne Frontier Days Old West Museum in Cheyenne, Wyoming.  We appreciate Doug Hansen of Hansen Wheel and Wagon Shop forwarding this image to us.  As part of our continuing research, several years ago we came across an extremely scarce (circa 1880) image of one of the Kansas/Caldwell wagons positioned near an early dealership but, know of no identifiable dead-axle wagons that have survived.
To date, the closest we’ve come to one of the Kansas built dead-axle wagons is this reach plate which once centered a Caldwell running gear.  As a builder of thousands upon thousands of farm, freight and military wagons, could it be that these few examples are all that’s left of the firm?   If you know of a documented Kansas or Caldwell wagon, give us a shout and let us know.  With so much early western history attached to this company, these vehicles certainly deserve their just recognition.
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