The Real Horsepower Of A Brand

Published by: David Sneed, Wheels That Won The West® Archives, LLC
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We’ve likely all been at an auctionwhere a particular item generates a frenzy of escalating bids and surprisingprices.  Sometimes the draw is the rarityof the piece.  Sometimes the increasedinterest is due to the type of item.  Atother times though the brand, itself, can be the primary attraction.  For many horse-drawn vehicle collectors,certain maker names are often able to generate more excitement thanothers.  Why is that? 

In the world of wagons and westernvehicles, there are at least four influential elements that can drivedesirability of a particular label.  Those areas involve the history of the brand,modern representations of that name, vehicle condition, and personalpreferences.  With that as a backdrop,let’s take a brief look at the first point; how the history of the brand can impact modern day perceptions of these wheels. 

ThisWheels That Won The West® archive photo is part of our extensive collection of earlywagon maker reference materials.

Brand heritage can be elevated if the builder has a legacy attached to early development of the western frontier.  Connections involving the military, politics,or some other noteworthy segment of America’s past can also play an intriguingrole.  Overall, that background ofenriched history has the power to help shape the face of and fascination withearly trademark names.  In fact, thelegacy and lore attached to those days can often be transferred to a survivingvehicle even if it wasn’t produced during those times.  Peter Schuttler, for example, is known tohave continually leveraged its presence and connection with the Old West wellinto the 20th century.  It’snot the only consideration, but is likely part of the reason for the popularityof that brand with collectors today. Company size is also a significant historical point since those withlarger production capacities were often the more esteemed builders.  As with the Schuttler note above, it’spossible for that popularity to remain consistent generation after generation.  Other brands like Bain, Mitchell, Murphy,Moline, Espenschied, Schuttler, Studebaker, Weber, and Jackson share similar tiesto freighting, ranching, mining, and emigrant travel in the early West.  Remarkably, each of these also have strongfollowings today. 
A second stimulus to the admiration ofindividual vehicle brands is connected to how those labels are representedtoday.  For instance, the history of Wells Fargo is powerfully woven into the legacy of one horse-drawn vehiclemaker in particular.  Abbot-Downing ofConcord, New Hampshire built a number of legendary Concord Coaches for the firmand, over time, the use of these elite stages became almost synonymous withWells Fargo’s dependability, security, and presence in the West.  It’s so much a part of the company’spersonality that the organization has long used the Concord Coach as a symbolof the firm.  Just as interesting is thepoint that, for decades, the banking legend has owned the rights to theAbbot-Downing name and actively uses it today within its financial serviceofferings.  Furthermore, the firm’scommitment to this history has resulted in numerous original stagecoaches beingdisplayed in Wells Fargo facilities throughout the U.S.  Many parades and prestigious events are alsoattended by the company’s horse drawn stages. Over and over, these regular and prominent reminders of a specific brandcan easily impact modern day perceptions. 

An original conditionConcord Coach in the Otero Museum in La Junta, Colorado
Thirdly, the condition of a particularlybranded set of wheels can also sway interest – even if the vehicle was built bya small maker.  Surviving pieces with minimalwear and tear and a fair amount of original paint are increasingly hard tolocate and in ever-increasing demand. Solid construction and quality paint combined with a visible andidentifiable logo can make almost any wagon or western vehicle hard to pass up.

Finally, personal preference can work asa type of ‘wild card,’ carrying the potential to vastly sway an individual’sfascination with a set of wheels.  Assuch, it’s not unusual for an original vehicle built in a particular locale tobe even more attractive to persons from the same region. 
There are many other influences tovehicle popularity so this list should not be construed as a one-size-fits-allset of guidelines.  As with any othercollectible, it’s important to know as much as possible about a piece beforeinvesting.  Do your homework, get to knowthe power of a brand and understand what’s most desirable to you andothers.  It’s time well spent toward thequality of your collection, not to mention your own satisfaction.  
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