Popular Western Vehicle Blogs

Published by: David Sneed, Wheels That Won The West® Archives, LLC
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Exactly 4 weeks from today, we’ll mark 5years of consistently writing and posting at least 1 blog per week.  It will total just over 270 times that I’ve sat down and wondered what part of America’s first transportation industry toshare next.  Some weeks, the subject cameeasy.  On other occasions, I struggled –struggled to squeeze in the time and struggled to keep the diversity of topicsfresh and pertinent.  Ultimately, therewere days when I wondered if we could reach the 5-year milestone.  Even though we still have a few weeks to go, it’sgood to see the goal so close.  So, as abit of a reflection and nod to what continues to be an amazing research andwriting experience, I thought we might look back at a few of the most popular posts to date.

Most of America's early wagon makers were small shops serving limited areas.
Some might feel that the older posts onour site would have inherently accumulated more traffic.  There’s a certain amount of logic to that lineof thinking.  However, as I’ve reviewedthe list of topics, it’s clear that some pieces have just naturally attractedmore interest – regardless of the age of the post.  Case in point, several of my articles from this year have already risen to the top 10% in total views.      

As a general rule, there always seems tobe a fair amount of interest anytime we’re focused on a particular vehicletype.  While many folks have their ownidea of the perfect set of wheels, when it comes to our overall readership, itdoesn’t seem to matter which type we focus on – farm, freight, ranch, coach,military, or business.  As long as thedetails are documented and the information is there, the traffic finds a way tothe stories.  Our all-time, most popular postingwas one I wrote back in 2012.  Thisparticular piece wasn’t overly lengthy but it pointed out a number of ways that farm wagons are different.  It’s a message that we’ve shared fordecades.  Unfortunately, some perceptionsare hard to change and we continue to see how misperceptions not only degradeand oversimplify these old wheels but actually contribute to the demise ofvaluable history.  The truth is, no twoof these workhorses will ever be exactly the same.  It might be variations in condition,accessories, features, or overall designs that create the contrast.  Or, it may be differences in the brand, age, completeness,levels of originality, or even the color and graphics that help set a particularvehicle apart.  Ultimately, every detailcan be crucial when determining collectability, value, rarity levels, andoverall provenance.

Stake rings were used for a multitude of purposes.  This photo shows the rings helping extend the support and height of the bolster stakes (standards).
The most popular blogs related to earlyvehicle brands (at least of the ones I’ve written) include Weber, Electric Wheel Company,Abbot-Downing, Moline, and Studebaker to name a few.  There are a great many more brands that we’veyet to feature.  Some relatively unknown19th century makes like Star,Whitewater, Kansas, and Jackson have also generated their fair share ofinterest.  

The early wagon and coaching industrieswere filled with larger-than-life personalities such as the Studebaker brothers in South Bend, Lewis Downing and J. Stephens Abbot of Concord, New Hampshire, early freighter and U.S. Senator, Alexander Caldwell (Kansas & Caldwell wagons),Peter Schuttler of Chicago, Henry Mitchell of Racine, the Nissen families inNorth Carolina, and so many more.  I’vehighlighted several of these legendary vehicle builders in my blogs.  At the end of the day, though, the craftsman thatseems to regularly attract the most interest may also be the one whose historyis among the murkiest – Joseph Murphy.  Established in 1825, thehistory of Murphy wagons is filled with hearsay – especiallywhen comments are brought up about the giant freight wagons he allegedly builtfor use on the Santa Fe Trail.  Theclaims could be true but, to date, there has been a general lack of primarysource evidence to back up the assertions. It’s also regularly stated that Murphy was extremely quality-consciouswith the manufacture of his wagons.  Justover a decade ago, we were able to independently verify that claim with thediscovery of a number of original letters dating to the early and mid-1880’s.  Several of the notes were hand-written byJoseph Murphy and give explicit instructions on how and when to cut raw timberfor use in his wagons.  The documentsalso lend some insight into the wood sizes and manufacturing needs Murphy’sbusiness was experiencing.  We expect to haveanother opportunity in the fall of 2017 to share more about Mr. Murphy during ameeting with the Santa Fe Trail Association and National Stagecoach and Freight Wagon Association.  I’llhave more info on that conference as we get a little closer.  
Finally, we occasionally get requests toprofile a particular topic.  Such was thecase with an email we received back in 2013 asking about the inventor of the cast thimble skein.  It was a good question as the research makesclear that wagons used in 18th century events such as America’s RevolutionaryWar did not use cast skeins… someone please cue Hollywood to take note.

 The Wheels That Won The West® Archives house hundreds of original coaching images. The photo above features an Abbot-Downing Concord Coach used on the Good Intent stage line.
So, there it is – a brief list ofhighlights from the last 5 years of our blogs. Do I have another 5 years of blogs in me?  Good question.  With increasingly challenging work schedulesand vehicle projects, there may be a time down the road when we need to reducethe posting frequency a bit.  Whoknows?  Maybe it will increase.  Whatever the case, we’re grateful for theprivilege of overseeing so much history –and equally thankful to share time with you each week.  Don’t forget to stay in touch and pass along a few of your own stories.  We’denjoy hearing from you.

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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