Preserving History

Published by: David Sneed, Wheels That Won The West® Archives, LLC
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At some point, most collectors have beenasked the question – “Why do you collect the things you do?”  There can be any number of reasons but,ultimately, it’s fairly simple; we all tend to gravitate toward the things welike.  Beyond that, collectors alsotypically look for pieces that increase the quality and noteworthiness of theircompilation.    

When it comes to antique, horse-drawnvehicles, there are at least a handful of characteristics I like to see.  In particular, I look for higher quality featuresthat enhance the condition of the piece. Coupled with significant originality levels, desired rarity, provenance,and completeness, each has a way of setting an individual vehicle apart fromthe crowd.  The overall depth of a collectioncan also reinforce its significance.  Tothat point, recently, we were fortunate to expand the diversity of ourcollection to include an original California stage wagon. 

The conservation work done on this mountain stage wagon was focused on preserving the original look and legacy of the vehicle’s history. 
Deaccessioned from a museum, thiswestern stage will date to the late 1800’s. The smaller, do-it-all design was geared for shorter runs over therugged terrain between mining communities. Supported by 1 1/2 inch steel axles, Sarven hubs, and 1 3/4 inch springs,the configuration carried lighter loads of passengers, mail, packages, and gear.  Highlights of the pattern include a triple reach,covered rear boot, footbrake, side curtains, heavy brake beam, and periodcorrect tongue.  From top to bottom andeverything in between, it was engineered for strength, fleetness, andflexibility.
Over the last several months, the stage has been atDoug Hansen’s shop in Letcher, SouthDakota for a little TLC to bring it back to operating condition.  At the same time the reconditioning wastaking place, we wanted to preserve the original, as-used character and hard-earnedpatina. 

In fact, throughout the conservationefforts, we worked closely with Hansen’s team to both maintain and protect thehistoric integrity of the vehicle.  Aswith virtually any century-plus-old set of wheels, some pieces were missing or brokenand needed repair.  The work process wentso far as to use timeworn materials wherever possible.  In several places, we were able to employaged wood and even period leather left over from the restoration of another oldCalifornia coach.  So, today, those partsof yesterday live on in this stage wagon. It’s just the kind of serious attention to detail and period-correctconservation that helps perpetuate authentic history for generations tocome. 

From features to function and purpose toplace, stagecoaches came in all sizes, shapes, configurations, andcapacities.  Some of the most recognizeddesigns are the heavy Concord coaches built by Abbot-Downing or the lighter mudwagons or even touring coach styles built by a number of manufacturers such asM.P. Henderson of Stockton, California. Even so, there were many other types of stages serving both remote townsand popular destinations.  All of thesewheels have a way of reinforcing the rich history of America while showcasingthe true depth of our nation’s first transportation industry. 
Anytime we can help save and shareanother part of the Old West we pay tribute to those who came before us while servingas good stewards to those who come after. After all, the process of collecting is always bigger thanourselves.  It’s about preserving time andsharing a historic way of life.  As such,it has a way of bringing people together who may have been worlds apart – justthe way the original coaches did so many years ago.  

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.
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