M.P. Henderson

Published by: David Sneed, Wheels That Won The West® Archives, LLC
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As a research source and repository for so much ofAmerica’s early transportation history, we regularly add to our files ofprimary source literature.  Not long ago,we acquired an early lumber and hardware catalog from Hickinbotham Brotherslocated in Stockton, California.   Thefirm was established in 1852 as the West was still booming with goldfever.  Coincidentally, it was duringthis same timeframe that legendary stagecoach builder, Milton Henderson, firsttraveled from Maine to explore the possibilities of the West for himself.  Ultimately, this first trip did not provesuccessful and he returned to the east to regroup and refinance.  By the late 1850’s, Mr. Henderson againtraveled to California.  First workingwith his brother and others, within a decade or so, Henderson had joined forceswith another carriage maker.  By themid-1870’s, he had begun promoting his own shop at Stockton.   
The image above is from an extremely rare 1870’s billheadfrom the company.  The firm advertiseditself as a carriage manufactory at the time. Their specialties included carriage and buggy work as well asconstruction of express and thoroughbrace wagons and stages.  Mr. Henderson also touted his firm’s proficiencyin carriage painting, trimming, wood work and blacksmithing “of allkinds.”  By 1885, Milton Henderson’s son,Orrin, had joined the organization and the name was changed to M.P. Henderson& Son.  While the company built amultitude of different vehicle styles, they became well known for their stagework.  The firm survived through thefirst decade of the 20th century.
Today, M.P. Henderson vehicles and stagecoaches canbe found throughout California and the West. Among those we’ve had the opportunity to profile are coaches within thecollections at the Carriage & Western Art Museum of Santa Barbara, theParks-Janeway Carriage House at the Santa Ynez Valley Historical Museum, andalso Scotty’s Castle near Death Valley.  
A circa 1888 photograph in our Wheels That Won The West® collection shows an M.P. Henderson light mud wagon labeled as an 8passenger coach.  An illustration whichappears to have been drawn from this photo is shown in the Fall 1993 issue of TheCarriage Journal.  The accompanyingdescription labels the coach as a No. 35 Concord.  There is some discussion as to whether theNo. 35 Concord was a 5 passenger coach or whether it had an 8 passengeralternative.  The photo we’ve examined isclearly from the late 1800’s and there’s no mistaking the accompanyingdescription, leaving us to believe the No. 35 coach had variables in passengercapacity.  It’s the kind of informationwe enjoy uncovering as we continue to help provide more details on America’searliest and most legendary transportation industry. 
For more details on the background of the M.P.Henderson company, see Ken Wheeling’s excellent article in the Fall 1993 issueof The Carriage Journal.
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