Wagon & Western Vehicle Information

Published by: David Sneed, Wheels That Won The West® Archives, LLC
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We receive a lot of questions askingwhere information about different vehicles can be found.  The good news is there are quite a fewsources.  The bad news is – there arequite a few sources.  In other words,it’s a massive and complex subject too large for any single volume and,tragically, not all resources have sufficiently vetted their ‘research’.  Over and over, I’ve shared the complexity ofthis subject and the need for careful answers. Take, for instance, the front axle of a ‘simple’ farm wagon.  Sounds like a pretty straight-forward topicwith a basic design that could be written about in a paragraph or two,right?  Unfortunately, that’s far frombeing the case.  In fact, as I’m writingthis, I quickly thought of over two dozen variations in front axleconfigurations; each with its own story to tell.


Built in the same factory, these two Mitchell brand wagon designs are separated by about 30 years.  As a result, there are innumerable differences between them.
Differences in the front axle caninclude whether the axle is determined to be a solid - steel, iron, wood – oris it one of a number of hollow or combination patterns?  Other distinctions can be found in the axleshape, length, height, depth, weight capacity, spacer design, presence of atruss rod or bar, skein size, skein type (cast or steel), and skein design –there are innumerable skein designs including those with innovative oil caps,sand bands, and other features.  Is the axleequipped with roller bearings?  If so,are they of a Timken or larger steel pin variety?  If pins, how many and what size arethey?  How are the wheels affixed to theskeins – by linch pin or nut?  Is theaxle through-bolted or clipped?  How arethe stay-chain hooks attached or are there any? Where is the hound bracing attached? Does the axle move or is it a fixed, auto-steer type?  What about surviving makermarks/stamps/castings?  Truly, the listcan be overwhelming but each piece can tell us something about how the vehiclewas used as well as potentially pointing us to a maker and even a timeframe ofmanufacture.  Reliable information on allof this – and much more – is not typically available.  It’s one of the primary reasons we’recontinually encouraged to share such rare details through this blog. 
Note the wooden stake inserted into the bolster standard rings on this wagon gear.  This side support extension is just one of the purposes of the design and is a feature benefit not typically pointed out among modern writings.
Because of the subject size, whenstarting out, I’d recommend focusing on a specific type of vehicle, region ofthe country, or timeframe before trying to tackle all of the obstacles atonce.  Below are a few suggested books coveringdifferent vehicle backgrounds and types. This is far from a conclusive list as there are countless otherpublications with varying degrees of important details.  So, with each being a vast subject in and ofitself, don’t fall into the trap of believing you’ll find a single book or twothat will answer all the knowledge you’ll ever need.  Our society may have us accustomed to eatingfast food, but if you move too fast with assumptions here, this field of study caneat your lunch; leaving you with nothing but egg-on-your-face and plenty ofhumble pie to carry around.

Early Freighting…

“From the Missouri to the Great SaltLake, An Account of Overland Freighting” by William E. Lass, 1972

“The Twenty Mule Team of Death Valley”by Ted Faye, 2012

“Empire On Wheels” by Mary Lund Settleand Raymond W. Settle, 1949

“I Hauled These Mountains In Here!” byFrances & Dorothy Wood, 1977

“The Old Pike – A History of theNational Road” by Thomas B. Searight, 1894

“Conestoga Wagon 1750-1850” by GeorgeShumway, Edward Durell, & Howard C. Frey, 1964-1966, 1968

“Wagons for the Santa Fe Trade” by MarkL. Gardner, 2000

“War Drums & Wagon Wheels” byRaymond W. and Mary Lund Settle, 1966

“Commerce of the Prairies” by JosiahGregg, 1844

Coaches & Coaching…

“Wagons, Mules and Men” by NickEggenhofer, 1961

“My Playhouse Was A Concord Coach” byMae Helene Bacon Boggs, 1942

“Time Well Kept” by Wells FargoHistorical Services, 2011

“Via Western Express & Stagecoach”by Oscar Osburn Winther, 1945

“Six Horses” by Captain William Banning& George Hugh Banning, 1928

“Old Waybills” by Alvin F. Harlow, 1934

“Stagecoach West” by Ralph Moody, 1967

Military Vehicles…

“The Great Blue Army Wagon” by ThomasLindmier, 2009

“Horse-Drawn Ambulances” by CarriageMuseum of America, 2004

“Cannons: An Introduction to Civil WarArtillery” by Dean S. Thomas, 1985

“History & Description of anAmbulance Wagon” by Thomas W. Evans, M.D., 1868

General horse-drawn vehicle history…

“The Carriage Trade” by Thomas A.Kinney, 2004

“Borrowed Time – A Tribute To The WheelsThat Built The American West” by David Sneed, 2011

“Wagon-Making in the United States” byPaul A. Kube, 2005

“The Prairie Traveler” by Randolph B.Marcy, 1859

“Platte River Road Narratives” by MerrilJ. Mattes, 1988

“Carriage Terminology: An HistoricalDictionary” by Don H. Berkebile, 1978

“Wheels West, 1590-1900” by RichardDunlop, 1977

“The Old Reliable – The History of theSpringfield Wagon Company” by Steven Lee Stepp, 1972

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