Wooden Wagon Signs

Published by: David Sneed, Wheels That Won The West® Archives, LLC
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In the hunt for history, one of the mostexciting parts is the chase itself.  Thepursuit can be full of surprises and often generates a host of unforgettablememories.  As intriguing as the chase maybe, though, the greatest satisfaction usually comes with the actual discoveryof pieces most have only read of or dreamed about.  It’s a thought easily echoed in our ownsearches as, again and again, our quests are punctuated with exceptional finds;each driving us forward in the never-ending search for lost artifacts fromAmerica’s first transportation industry.

Hand built, wooden promotional signage was oncea common sight with wagon retailers.  
Not long ago, we came upon another raresurvivor – An original, wooden sign that would have been used as an outdoorbillboard for a dealer of Peter Schuttler wagons.  Schuttler, as many know, was a legendarywagon builder and highly respected brand during more than 8 decades ofmanufacturing in Chicago.  I’ve written afair amount about the firm, including a brief company bio in Driving Digestmagazine a few years ago.  LikeStudebaker, Mitchell, Bain, Jackson, and countless other nationally-recognizedbrands, the Peter Schuttler Wagon Company was a strong marketer with a host ofadvertising tools.  Most of the true outdoorpieces have either deteriorated, been destroyed, or may yet be tucked away inan attic, old barn, or similar out-of-the-way place.
While these promotional signs came in amultitude of sizes, this single plank display is one of the larger varieties,measuring almost a foot in height and 14 feet in length.  Surrounded by a well-worn, blue-beadedfinish, the faded white block lettering is adorned with barb-like serifs on theindividual characters.  The spurred font carriesa unique western feel which may have been designed to leverage the company’srich history and popularity during the early growth of the West.  The size of the sign is also significant asit’s a strong indicator of its purpose as an outdoor piece.  Larger signs were used to draw greaterattention while reinforcing the dominant market position of a particularbrand.  

Earlywagon signage was often more prominent than the name of the businessestablishment itself.
Numerous early photos in our Archives showthese signs on period hardware, lumber, general mercantile, and otherstores.  While vintage wagon makersworked to establish exclusive sales contracts with these sellers, retailerswere an independent sort and they often sold as many as a half dozen differentbrands from a single store.  It was nodoubt confusing to some buyers with so many signs and wagon names on theoutside of a building.  Knowing this,it’s no surprise that the practice of carrying multiple brands was a regularsource of contention between manufacturers and sellers of these historicwood-wheeled wagons.
If you know of other early vehiclesignage, give us a shout.  We enjoy theopportunity to review period advertising materials.  Custom designed for optimum impact, these specialpieces offer rare insights into the business side of one of the mostcompetitive and essential industries in early America.  
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