Wagon Displays

Published by: David Sneed, Wheels That Won The West® Archives, LLC
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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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Over the years, I’ve received countlessquestions related to early American wagons and western vehicles.  It’s a subject that continually invitescuriosity and admiration.  Ultimately, whatwe, as collectors, know and share not only helps reinforce the fascination forthese rolling works of art but perpetuates the true personality of a set ofwheels. 

So, this week, I’d like to turn thetables a bit and ask a couple of questions to vehicle collectors as well.  First... how much do you truly know about theindividual pieces in your collection? And second... how do you display and share those details?  I’ve been researching and collecting for overtwo decades and never cease to be amazed at how much there is to learn about individualvehicles and brands, let alone the entire industry.

Whether we’re talking about a high-endmuseum collection with multiple transports or a single set of wheels that’sbeen passed down from an earlier generation, the staged atmosphere surroundinga piece helps set it off as more than a basic concept from a bygone era... it highlightsthe iconic personality; bringing the piece to life and uniting it to some ofthe most challenging and exciting times within American history. 

We’ve all seen museum exhibits withelaborate signage and expensive backdrops. While sets like this can be impressive, some of these can be soelaborate they completely miss the mark. Why?  Too often, basic history isrepeated to the point that the specific provenance attached to a particular setof wheels is completely missed.  Ifyou’re looking to add to the intrigue of your collection with friends, family,and visitors, hone in on the most personal and historic elements related to avehicle.  I’d recommend that you beginmodestly, perhaps with only one vehicle. Start off with your favorite.  Thefeelings you have for that one vehicle will help keep you motivated and perhapseven help establish it as the obvious centerpiece in your collection.  Below are a few thoughts on some ways to get started...

Brand History – Work up abrief bio of the brand’s background, highlighting its connection to the growthand development of America.  You may evenbe able to profile the maker’s involvement in significant events, patents, orlegal wranglings. While keeping the details short for easy reading, place theinfo on a placard next to the wagon.  

Brand Advertising/Signage – Early tin,wooden, and cardboard signs can be an ideal accent to a set of wheels.  Likewise, old print advertising is oftenelaborate, helping showcase the way a particular brand was perceived back inthe day.  If the cost of rare, originalsignage runs a little outside of your budget, it’s also possible to accomplishsimilar results with inexpensive reproduction pieces.  Other options include havinga digital print shop enlarge an original advertisement and mount it on a stiffbacking board.

Design Elements – Getcreative.  Look for supporting accessorypieces from the same era as your vehicle. The presentation of your wagon can benefit from a few (not so many thatthey’re distracting) authentic components like a wagon jack, drag shoe, staychains, wooden crates/barrels, or even a miniature child’s wagon of the samemake as your full-sized wagon.  Some earlywagons might even be appropriate custodians of a period odometer.

Technology Used – Look thewagon over closely.  Are there any patentmarkings or special features that can be called out?  These types of bonus details can add greatlyto the talking points and interest of a particular vehicle. 

Personal History – It’s always agood idea to try and acquire as much history on a set of wheels aspossible.  Even if you don’t have a fullownership history, many times a wagon still has the name of a selling dealerstenciled on the box or gear. Researching the dates of operation and details of a particular retailoutlet can reinforce the character and story tied to a piece.

Ultimately, it pays to do yourhomework.  Take your time researching;being careful in the details.  The lastthing anyone wants is to get the history wrong. That said, be advised... the subject of early wooden wagons is full oftwists, turns, and sudden stops.  Manybuilders had similar names.  Somereinvented themselves under new brand or management names.  Still others have a history that has beenwidely misreported in modern times.

In the end, don’t be surprised if theextra efforts put forth in the interpretation of a piece not only reflect your deepappreciation for a set of wheels but also more fully engage family members andvisitors in a way you never thought possible. Best of luck to 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.
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