One Last Look – 2017 SFTA Symposium

Published by: David Sneed, Wheels That Won The West® Archives, LLC
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There are a number of ways to learn moreabout America’s first transportation industry. Some of the more popular methods include seminars, books, authoritativewebsites, museums, question-and-answer-sessions, and personal networking.  It just so happens that the recent symposiumpresented by the Santa Fe Trail Association and National Stagecoach & Freight Wagon Association included all of the above.   

This is the third and final week of ourcoverage of the 2017 symposium.  As such,we’ll focus on a couple more of the event's activities, including our trip to the Steamboat Arabia Museum in KansasCity.  The ‘night-at-the-museum’ includeda video, tour, meal, and one-on-one narratives with museum docents.  The museum, in two words, is “beyondamazing.”  This was my third trip andevery time I’m amazed at what was found and preserved.  There was so much on board this boat that I’malways seeing new things.  In fact, theArabia was packed with over 200 tons of goods when it sank in 1856.  As of 2017, the museum is estimating that itstill has at least 10 more years of conservation and preservation work to dobefore all of the recovered items are available for presentation.

The Steamboat Arabia Museum in Kansas City shares anincredible story that combines mid-1800’s history, the lure of treasurehunting, and the power of the American Dream.
With numerous scheduled stops on the Missouri River,the Arabia and other nineteenth century steamboats helped provide vitalmaterials to those living on the American frontier.
This portion of the Arabia’s stern and rudder weresalvaged and preserved, helping showcase the vital role America’s westernsteamboats played during the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.
Doug Hansen (Hansen Wheel & Wagon Shop) and Jim Patrick take a closer lookat an extremely rare, wheeled relic. This 1856 Peter Schuttler brand running gear is likely the oldestsurviving, factory-built wagon in America.

If you’re not familiar with the story ofthe Steamboat Arabia, I wrote a feature article years ago that highlighted the vessel's sinking and recovery while also focusing on the high wheel wagon gear found onboard.  The piece was published by The Carriage Journal back in January of 2008.  If you missed it, another writing ofthe account can still be found on our website. The story is entitled, Arabia’s Buried Treasure.  The sinking of the Arabia in 1856 left uswith a time capsule of life on the frontier in those days.  Almost anything one can imagine was on thatboat – including a pre-fabricated house!

This massive display of hand tools is just a fractionof the countless goods recovered from the Arabia.
It’s hard to imagine such beautiful and fragilechina heading west on a steamboat in 1856. It’s even more amazing to know these pieces survived wagon freighting, a shipwreck,flooding, and being buried beneath nearly fifty feet of Kansas cornfield.
Getting a firsthand look at the vibrant colors,patterns, and styles of clothing being sent into the mid-1800’s American Westgives us an even greater understanding of how things really appeared in thattime period.
New-old-stock keys, hinges, and other hardware from1856 are unheard-of finds in today’s world.
The steamboat Arabia included a wealth of materialsfor the frontier, including this printer’s type bound for Council Bluffs, Iowa.
The last place we visited on our trip tothe symposium was the Frontier Army Museum at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas.  This facility is loaded with early militarytransportation, wheeled weaponry, and other items used in the exploration ofthe American West.  Articles such as a circa-1800 surveyor’s compass, photographic equipment, pack saddles, signal corpgear, recovered picket pins, early bayonets, and countless other items are alsohoused in this museum.  If you’re ever inthe area, it’s a stop well worth your time. Plus, just a few blocks from the museum, deep swales from mid-nineteenthcentury wagon traffic still tell the story of heavy freighting and emigrantsleaving the Missouri River, headed west.

The Frontier Army Museum, located at FortLeavenworth, includes a wealth of transportation history related to the earlyU.S. Army.  A special permit is requiredto enter the military base.

This ox yoke was built in 1860 by Mr. Lackbee.  It was made for the legendary freighting firmof Russell, Majors and Waddell.
There’s a lot to see and study at theFrontier Army Museum.
The Model 1909 Army Ambulance was the lasthorse-drawn ambulance design used by the U.S. Army.  
This is a rare, ‘Improved Dougherty’wagon.  The design was in use before andduring World War 1.
As evidenced by this buckboard, the U.S. army usedliterally dozens of different types of horse-drawn vehicles during thenineteenth and early twentieth centuries.
Coming soon... we’ll take a look at twowell-known, early vehicle brands that are often confused as beingone-and-the-same.  As it happens, brandhistory and the associated identification challenges are common issues for manyenthusiasts and collectors of wheeled history. We’ll talk more soon.  In themeantime, have a great week!  

Please Note:  As with each of our blog writings, all imagery and text is copyrighted with All Rights Reserved.  The material may not be broadcast, published, rewritten, or redistributed without prior written permission from David E. Sneed, Wheels That Won The West® Archives, LLC
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