Get To Know Your Past
Finding information on general and specific questions about America's early transportation industry can be difficult. While our archives contain information on many of the more significant western vehicle makers, many gaps on individual firms still exist. With tens of thousands of companies spanning the better part of two centuries, the industry was enormous and vital records often have not survived. In this section, we've highlighted a number of the more common questions relating to early vehicles and our promotional involvement. Should you have any additional questions or comments, feel free to drop us an email at info@wheelsthatwonthewest.com   Click on a question below for more details.
Values of antique wagons and western vehicles can vary greatly depending on vehicle type, condition, quality of craftsmanship, scarcity, degree of originality, brand desirability, historical significance (provenance), and other considerations. 
Correctly identifying a wagon with no discernable markings can be difficult and often impossible. However, close scrutiny of construction styles and individual parts can sometimes lend important clues to the maker.   
Most likely, the name on the brake ratchet is that of the brake manufacturer only. While some vehicle makers did put their name on the brake lever, most purchased the brake hardware from independent manufacturers and then installed them on their wagons.  
Generally, the rear wheels of wagon gears were larger than the front. However, some--such as log and lumber gears--did utilize same size wheels on each axle.  
The skein or metal thimble that the wheel hub fits onto is of a specific size.Generally, the larger the size the more weight the wagon can carry. Wheels are only interchangeable if the hub boxing is the same size as the skeins.  
Without a documented history of ownership, a vehicle's age can be challenging to pinpoint. While some manufacturers did include dates on the gears/boxes, most did not. However, since manufacturers changed hardware, paint styles, and other features from time to time, it is possible that patient research can help narrow down the time period.  
While square nuts were used heavily, hex nuts were definitely used in some instances. They can also be found in Wagon & Carriage Hardware Catalogs at least as early as the 1870's. Careful inspection by experienced consultants can help determine a vehicle's originality and whether correct parts are on the vehicle.   
The U.S. Army purchased vehicles from a number of approved contractors. Part of the government specifications included the need for interchangeable parts. Combined with the fact that vehicles were often shipped from the manufacturer in a disassembled or "knocked down" form and reassembled later, it was inevitable that wheels from multiple makers would be found on a single military vehicle.  
While a hardware store could have been the maker, these same businesses were among the early retail outlets for wagon builders, and they often had their name painted on the vehicle to promote the dealership. It’s a trait that was copied by the modern automotive industry. As a result, today, you can often still find the name of the vehicle retailer on your car or truck.   
To paint or not to paint... it's a difficult question and the answer is often hard to give without a firsthand inspection of the vehicle. First rate restorations by qualified experts can be beneficial on some vehicles, but most collectors and vehicle enthusiasts will concur that the practice of taking a brush to a rig should be approached with great caution. Many vehicles have been irreparably harmed by well-meaning individuals wanting to "spruce up" a family heirloom.  
It's possible that we may be able to help you directly or point you to another source.  
Manufacturers had numerous styles of wagons that were suited to different regions of the country as well as different end-user purposes. Combined with the practice of continually upgrading construction styles and paint/striping patterns, vehicles from the same manufacturer can very easily look different.  
Vintage wagons were made with and without brakes, depending on the region, purpose, and preferences for which they were used.  

Footboards, folding end gates, brakes, spring seats, feed boxes, bow clips, and other items were often considered "options" and not included as original equipment on every wagon.  
Changing any part of a potentially collectable vehicle can damage resale values. Qualified experts should be consulted before applying any materials to a vintage vehicle.   
Sunlight, humidity, dirt/dust, insects, animals, and even oils from hands touching the vehicle can be harmful. Keeping the vehicle in an enclosed, light and climate-controlled space with a solid floor is recommended.    
Inquiries are welcome and there is a fee for research. However, due to a shortage of staffing, the "Wheels" archives are currently available on a very limited basis. It may be difficult to uncover information for every request. We are working to open our files to more requests. 
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