Picking Up Bones

Published by: David E. Sneed
Published on:
Text & Images Copyright © David E. Sneed, All Rights Reserved
Share This Blog:

Picking apart the details in bone piles of old wagons is something I’ve enjoyed for decades. Why? Because every one of these forgotten parts of history has the potential to hold valuable secrets. Identities, timeframes of manufacture, rarity, and historical significance can all be hiding in plain sight. Uncovering these mysteries is not only a real treasure hunt but it can also open up opportunity where it’s least expected. Not long ago, I ran across another heap of abandoned parts. Take a look at the photo I’ve posted. The image shows the front and rear portions of two running gears. Both are notable brands in the Old West and both are from the late 1800s. That point, alone, is worth a strong second look. Nineteenth century pieces, in any condition, are few and far between in this day and time. Most of what is seen now-a-days will date to the early twentieth century.


Image title


Here's the scoop on the running gears in the photo. One of them was built by the legendary Studebaker Bros. firm in South Bend, Indiana. In fact, the gear has over three dozen brand identity markers confirming this. The other is an early survivor crafted by the Mitchell Wagon Company in Racine,Wisconsin and is equally endowed with dozens of identifiable traits. I’m often asked, “How do you know what you’re looking at?” The answer is both simple and complex. My initial response is usually along the lines of, “How do you know a Chevy truck when you spot one? How do you know family members when you see them? How do you recognize a familiar voice? How do you remember what the kitchen in your home looks like?” Each one of these questions can be answered with one truth...In-Depth Experience Creates Knowledge and Familiarity. Just like an endeared family member is easy to spot, spending decades, day after day around the details of so many different brands helps condition a person to look beyond the overall to the individual physical characteristics. In other words, everything about an old wagon is saying something. From the angle, placement, shape, and interaction of the ironwork to the type, size, position, and contours of the wood, every maker had a personality they imparted to the designs. Over time – just like with automobiles – the looks and design of a particular feature can change... even within the same brand. However, knowing who did what, where, how, and when has helped us consistently and conclusively identify some of the rarest parts of America’s wheeled West. That’s where the vast number of early maker catalogs, images, and brand history continues to set our Wheels That Won The West® archives apart from any other source. Beyond satisfying natural curiosity, confirming an identity can have significantly positive effects on a vehicle’s resale value and personal appreciation. After all, without a substantiated identity, an old wagon is missing the most important part of what does and doesn’t define it.

If you have a wagon or western vehicle you’d like us to take a look at, drop us a line. There’s no obligation and no fee for us to take an initial look. If you’re interested in obtaining any details we uncover, our standard discovery fees and any additional written documentation requests would apply. Feel free to send us some pics. We'd love to hear from you.

Go Top