Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Summertime Vacations & Old Wheels

Summertime is just around the corner and with school activities wrapping up for many, there are countless vacations being planned.  It’s the time of year that reminds me of several trips we took with our kids.   Even though we tried to ensure that every retreat included elements for everyone, I’m still accused of planning those getaways in the vicinities of early vehicle collections.  Okay, I may be a little guilty but the reality is that there are numerous examples of period wagons and coaches scattered all over the U.S.  So, our trips to Washington D.C., Mount Rushmore, Pikes Peak, Ft. Worth, Nashville, St. Louis, Kansas City, and even Disneyland always managed to have a stop or two to take in some wood-wheeled wonders. 

One of the most rewarding parts to traveling and viewing vehicles in other parts of the country is that you can see a lot of different features and configurations.  Fact is, specific areas often had particular designs and ways of doing things that aren’t seen elsewhere.  Once you begin to notice those details, it becomes easier to recognize regional styles.  It’s another part of the authentication process that’s crucial for collectors. 

Last week, I shared a few details about an original stage wagon we were conserving with the help of Doug Hansen and his team.  While I was at the South Dakota shop, I had a chance to walk through Doug’s bone yard of wheeled relics.  As we passed by one piece, he mentioned that it was an Indian wagon.  It's a term you don't hear too often but, still yet, the legacy is an important part of Old West history.  These wagons were sold to the U.S. Government as part of provisions made available to American Indians.  While this particular set of wheels happened to be a Studebaker, there were many other brands that also built these wagons.  Competition for the contracts was fierce and sometimes resulted in legal actions when a bid was lost. 

I took special interest in the piece for several reasons.  First, even though there were thousands of these wagons built, they are rarely identified today.  Second, these vehicles can easily date to the 19th century and that construction timeframe is becoming harder to find outside of a collection.  Third, some of today’s most legendary and elusive brands were known to have built these wagons – Caldwell and Jackson being among the most difficult to come across.  So, running across this kind of history in a South Dakota pasture was a bonus I wasn’t expecting.  It’s yet another reminder that you never know what you’re going to see or where.  As a result, it’s best to stay vigilant and take plenty of photos and notes.  Scarce pieces can show up when least expected and aren’t always immediately recognized.  Thorough documentation can be especially beneficial years later when more insights are known about a particular brand or design. 

While heavily deteriorated, this Indian wagon gear is a rare find.  The mountain wagon design is equipped with steel skeins, a clipped gear, tire rivets, bolster iron extensions, and an overlapping reach.

I’ll share a little more about these wagons in a later blog.  My main point here is to encourage watchfulness when you travel.  While millions of America’s earliest wooden vehicles have disappeared, many are still out there.  As an example, in the past two weeks, my travels have allowed me to see dozens of different designs – and even more individual pieces.  Almost all of them were a surprise to find.  Some of the most logical places to run across early wagons and coaches are in museums.  Even so, there are some truly amazing survivors in private collections.  Without a little guidance, though, it can be tough to know what pieces are where.  Joining organizations like the American Chuck Wagon Association, Carriage Association of America, and the National Stagecoach & Freight Wagon Association can be very helpful.  Networking opportunities within these groups can open doors to rare pieces that are seldom seen. 

Ultimately, if you have a vacation on the horizon and time to squeeze in a stop or two focused on early vehicles, do your homework.  Every part of the U.S. has its own share of rare and remarkable parts of yesterday.  My bet is you can weave it into your time off without any other family member knowing you planned the whole trip around these visits – or, at least I wish you better luck than I’ve had!  Have a great week.

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.

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Preserving History

At some point, most collectors have been asked the question – “Why do you collect the things you do?”  There can be any number of reasons but, ultimately, it’s fairly simple; we all tend to gravitate toward the things we like.  Beyond that, collectors also typically look for pieces that increase the quality and noteworthiness of their compilation.    

When it comes to antique, horse-drawn vehicles, there are at least a handful of characteristics I like to see.  In particular, I look for higher quality features that enhance the condition of the piece.  Coupled with significant originality levels, desired rarity, provenance, and completeness, each has a way of setting an individual vehicle apart from the crowd.  The overall depth of a collection can also reinforce its significance.  To that point, recently, we were fortunate to expand the diversity of our collection to include an original California stage wagon. 

The conservation work done on this mountain stage wagon was focused on preserving the original look and legacy of the vehicle’s history. 

Deaccessioned from a museum, this western stage will date to the late 1800’s.  The smaller, do-it-all design was geared for shorter runs over the rugged terrain between mining communities.  Supported by 1 1/2 inch steel axles, Sarven hubs, and 1 3/4 inch springs, the configuration carried lighter loads of passengers, mail, packages, and gear.  Highlights of the pattern include a triple reach, covered rear boot, footbrake, side curtains, heavy brake beam, and period correct tongue.  From top to bottom and everything in between, it was engineered for strength, fleetness, and flexibility.

Over the last several months, the stage has been at Doug Hansen’s shop in Letcher, South Dakota for a little TLC to bring it back to operating condition.  At the same time the reconditioning was taking place, we wanted to preserve the original, as-used character and hard-earned patina. 

In fact, throughout the conservation efforts, we worked closely with Hansen’s team to both maintain and protect the historic integrity of the vehicle.  As with virtually any century-plus-old set of wheels, some pieces were missing or broken and needed repair.  The work process went so far as to use timeworn materials wherever possible.  In several places, we were able to employ aged wood and even period leather left over from the restoration of another old California coach.  So, today, those parts of yesterday live on in this stage wagon.  It’s just the kind of serious attention to detail and period-correct conservation that helps perpetuate authentic history for generations to come. 

From features to function and purpose to place, stagecoaches came in all sizes, shapes, configurations, and capacities.  Some of the most recognized designs are the heavy Concord coaches built by Abbot-Downing or the lighter mud wagons or even touring coach styles built by a number of manufacturers such as M.P. Henderson of Stockton, California.  Even so, there were many other types of stages serving both remote towns and popular destinations.  All of these wheels have a way of reinforcing the rich history of America while showcasing the true depth of our nation’s first transportation industry. 

Anytime we can help save and share another part of the Old West we pay tribute to those who came before us while serving as good stewards to those who come after.  After all, the process of collecting is always bigger than ourselves.  It’s about preserving time and sharing a historic way of life.  As such, it has a way of bringing people together who may have been worlds apart – just the way the original coaches did so many years ago.  

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.

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

150-Year-Old Steering Idea

The last thing most folks would believe about wood-wheeled wagons is just how much ‘technology’ is packed inside the vehicles.  Nonetheless, these rolling works of art are loaded with innovative design distinctions.  A few months ago, I was privileged to share details on a fair amount of technology built into America’s early wagons.  The rare details were included in a lengthy presentation I gave to members of the Carriage Association of America and the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation.  Overall, it’s an area of tremendous fascination to me because so much of this part of our history is regularly overlooked.  Just because it goes unnoticed, though, doesn’t mean it’s a trivial pursuit.  In fact, it’s possible for some of these design elements to add important details to a vehicle’s provenance.  The individual features can also point to a timeframe of manufacture while simultaneously reinforcing identification and authentication efforts.  Even so, gathering information on individual parts, processes, and patterns takes time and detailed record-keeping to keep the entire transportation story in perspective.

With that in mind, I recently read an article highlighting how much Henry Ford had done for the early auto industry.  Clearly, Mr. Ford is due considerable credit.  But, he didn’t start from scratch.  In fact, a number of design concepts in those period wheels came from other sources.  For instance, where did the ideas originate for the steering systems?  For running boards?  Bodies?  Tops?  Suspensions?  Spoke designs?  Seats?  Well, you get the picture.  Early wagon makers had a tremendous influence on America’s first automobiles.   Truth be told, the influence hasn’t stopped.  Just as a point of reference, have you ever heard of beadlocks for truck tires?  Simply put, they’re used on many 21st century trucks to help secure the tires on wheels... especially for off-roading adventures.  Believe it or not, the roots for the idea are grounded in early tire rivets found on western wagons.  Just as beadlocks are purposed to help hold modern vehicle tires on their rims when the tire pressure changes, tire rivets on wooden wheels were also engineered to help hold wagon tires in place.  That way, when the wooden rims (felloes) shrank, it was harder for the metal tire to slip off and leave the driver stranded.  So, even though the look of the ride changes through time, the needs of transportation have a way of remaining similar.  As a result, it’s easy to draw countless parallels between modern wheels and 19th century designs.   

 Beadlock wheels have a very similar design purpose as tire rivets on period, horse-drawn vehicles.

Beyond tire rivets, in the paragraph above, I also made a reference to early steering systems installed in America’s first autos.  Believe it or not, some of those steering designs were extraordinarily similar to a wagon patent granted during the Civil War.  That’s right, the Civil War!  At least 40 years before most autos were being seriously considered, some of the first tie rods and independent steering systems were being highlighted on wagons.  To get a feel for how significant this idea was, it’s important to realize that most all wagons and carriages at the time were steered by the entire axle turning on a center pivot.  It was a method of construction that had endured for thousands of years.

The two illustrations above are part of a Civil War era patent featuring steering system elements similar to early auto designs.

In contrast to the traditional ‘axle steer’ system, this 1860’s patent left the axle stationary and fixed; so, only the two front wheels turned.  It meant that the wagon could be much more stable as it retained a wider, four-legged stance even in hard turns.  The idea also helped keep the tongue from being thrown side to side when a front wheel hit an obstruction or hole.  It was a concept that took a great deal of wear and tear off of the draft animals.  Ultimately, there were several brands that used variations of this configuration in both the 19th and early 20th centuries. 

Again and again, the makers of early wagons, stagecoaches, and western vehicles helped provide solid inspiration for the early auto industry.  Even more amazing – from the demands of modern off-roading to the many present-day methods of marketing vehicles – the ideas and impact of America’s first transportation industry are still being felt. 

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.

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Antique Wagon & Stagecoach Collection

Over the years, I’ve spent a lot of time soaking up details from countless, horse-drawn vehicle catalogs, photos, patents, ledgers, directories, and even blueprints.  The exercise has been vital to understanding the evolution and changes within individual brands as well as capturing unparalleled insights into America’s first transportation industry.  Even so, the value of traveling to different locations and viewing actual vehicles in their native surroundings is irreplaceable.  From the rugged terrain of the mountainous West to the wide open feel of the plains, every old set of wheels was built as much for a certain region as well as a particular purpose.

From California to Virginia, Texas to North Dakota, and Mississippi to Delaware, I’ve had the privilege of viewing public and private collections all over the U.S.  Some are focused on specific designs while others encompass a broader range of vehicle types.  One of the most diverse collections I’ve come across is the group gathered by Doug Hansen in Letcher, South Dakota.  While many know Doug for the early vehicles he and his team have restored or built, fewer have seen the full spectrum of his personal collection.  Recently, he shared several photos with us that showed nine different western vehicles in his collection.  From an early spring wagon and Concord coach to a pair of large freighters and heavy-duty log wagons, these old wheels do a good job of conveying the wide range of vehicles used on the frontier. 

The wide assortment of transportation in Doug Hansen’s collection helps reinforce the different vehicle designs used on America’s western frontier.

One of the rarer pieces in Hansen’s collection is a Peter Schuttler brand log truck.  It’s a vehicle equipped with several unique features including a patented axle truss.  Schuttler built four different models of this design with capacities ranging from three to six tons.  With it engineered to carry so much weight, the gear is fashioned with massive bolsters and hounds as well as beefy brake blocks and hubs.  It also features an oscillating reach for navigation of rugged, uneven terrain.  Provenance of the vehicle ties it to the famed Homestake Mine in Lead, South Dakota.  The mine closed just after the turn of the 21st century but, it was once considered to be the largest gold mine in North America.  Gold was discovered there in 1876 and silver was also uncovered in the mine.  According to Hansen, there is a sister wagon to this one in the Days of ‘76 Museum in Deadwood, South Dakota.  From the gold mining connection to the brand, itself, these wheels carry some intriguing history. 

This Peter Schuttler wagon gear was referred to as a Montana Log Truck.

Also in Hansen’s collection is a stagecoach with roots to the Redig, South Dakota community.  This special mud wagon was acquired in 1997 and restored by Hansen and his team in Letcher.  Since completion, it’s been driven on numerous historic trails, including the legendary Ft. Pierre to Deadwood route.  The period photo below is part of the vehicle’s personal history or provenance, providing greater documentation and authentication to the piece.

Doug Hansen purchased this historic stagecoach nearly two decades ago and restored it to its original glory.

Among other vehicles in the collection is a tall-sided Studebaker freight wagon that Hansen restored several years ago.  These heavy vehicles were essential in keeping the West outfitted throughout the mid to late 1800’s.  Nonetheless, most of these giant transports have not survived so it’s important to give due credit when we run across one.  Of course, farm wagons were also a popular design in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.  While most of these have also disappeared, millions were created so there are naturally more that have survived.  A few years back, Hansen shared that he came across an original, triple box Mitchell farm wagon.  Mitchell is a legendary brand with deep roots in the 1800’s.  He was fortunate to find it in exceptional condition with a great deal of original paint. 

Diversity, provenance, quality condition, and high levels of originality are strong elements to have in any early vehicle collection.

Clearly, Doug has an eye for rare pieces and we appreciate the opportunity to see a few of his keepsakes.  From time to time, we’ll be sharing other collections of America’s early wagons, coaches, and western vehicles.  So, if you have a special set of wheels or an entire warehouse full that you’d like us to feature here, drop us a line.  We’d love to hear from you.  It’s always a pleasure to see and share history.  Have a great week!

By the way, if you haven't signed up to receive this weekly blog via e-mail, just type your address in the "Follow By E-mail" section above.  You'll receive a confirmation e-mail that you'll need to verify before you're officially on board.  Remember - IF YOU DON'T VERIFY - you won't receive the emailed blogs.  So, make sure you check the email confirmations and verify.  Once that's done, you'll receive an email every time we update the blog.  Please don't hesitate to let us know if we can be of assistance.  We appreciate your continued feedback and look forward to sharing even more throughout the year. 

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.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Viewing History Through Early Wheels

Every day we come across history and, often, those encounters are taken for granted or missed altogether.  When that happens, we all lose.  We lose a richness and depth of culture as well as pieces of history that can never be replaced.  So prevalent is transportation history in American society that we continue to see remnants of it in the words and phrases we use as well as in interstate commerce. 

To that point, our Wheels That Won The West® Archives aren’t just devoted to collecting and storing history but to uncovering and sharing it.  (And congrats to all of you reading this that do the same.  From school visits and historical presentations to published works and special events, your work is a valuable and essential part of preserving our past)  Likewise, we’re committed to digging for and discovering new details that help us better appreciate our first transportation industry.  Understanding those all-but-lost inner workings of the old trade have a way of growing our respect for the period vehicles while allowing us to pass along a more vivid heritage to future generations.  It’s a point that was recently reinforced to me through some of our research. 

Many are likely aware of a wagon brand by the name of Buerkens.  The company was located in Pella, Iowa and dates its beginnings to the mid-1860’s.  Not long after moving to Pella from Burlington, Iowa, it seems the firm’s founder, Barney Buerkens, struck up a deal with James Sexton.  At the time, Sexton was a blacksmith and Buerkens needed someone to help fabricate the metalwork for his wagons.  As time went on, Mr. Sexton became something of an inventor with at least six patents awarded to him between 1869 and 1880.  He was even purported to have built the first bicycle in Iowa during the 1860’s.

This Sexton brake ratchet image was part of an improved patent application filed in 1879.  The original concept was submitted by J.B. Sexton in 1876.

Two of the patents awarded to J.B. Sexton dealt with a wagon brake lever that was commonly referred to as the Sexton or Pella brake ratchet.  The design dates to as early as the mid 1870’s and was sold by the thousands upon thousands.  The unique part of the configuration was that, instead of a ratchet and pawl being located on top of the brake bracket, it was on the bottom, below the pivot point.  This adjustable, self-locking design was easy to operate, allowing the brake to maintain consistent pressure without constant oversight and correction.  The design was so prevalent that it’s still fairly common to run across them on antique wagons today.

So, other than locating the information, how does all of this tie into our files?  As many know, just over a decade ago, we introduced a limited edition print entitled, “Making Tracks.”  While preparing materials for the creation of the print, we reviewed a considerable number of early sales pieces for wagons and decided to include a few of the more popular brake ratchet designs as part of the artwork.  Among the brake concepts shown in the print is the Sexton.  At the time, I didn’t know that the inventor of the ratchet was once a partner of sorts in the production of Buerkens wagons.  Nonetheless, it’s interesting to see how so much history continues to overlap.  As we might say today – ‘It’s a small world.’

This exclusive, limited edition print features wagon-making gear and heavy vehicle accessories common in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s.

For the record, identifying a particular brake style on a wagon does not necessarily tell us anything about the wagon – brand identity or otherwise.  Why?  Because these parts were (and still are) often re-purposed and moved to vehicles they did not originate with.  Additionally, most of the brakes used on early wagons were not proprietary designs.  In other words, the configurations were not necessarily exclusive to a particular brand.  That said, “sometimes” a brake can be helpful in pinpointing details associated with a specific vehicle.  Even so, it often requires a good bit of knowledge about the vehicle’s timeframe of manufacture as well as other considerations to know what any element on these works is actually saying. 

One thing's for sure, when you see a proper noun added as a descriptive to an early vehicle feature, it’s time to take note as there is more rich history just waiting to be shared.  Just like the "Sexton" brake, whether you’re talking about Sandage skeins, Concord coaches, Oregon brakes, or Sarven, Warner, or Archibald hubs, there are a number of early vehicle features named after their inventors or locations of origin.  Understanding that truth can help lead to the discovery of even more history while reinforcing the rich past carried by an old set of wheels.  

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.

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Studebaker Military Ambulances

Among early vehicle enthusiasts, there’s no shortage of discussions related to period military Escort Wagons as well as 6-Mule or even 4-Mule Army Wagons.  Less talked about, though, are the dozens of other early military transports such as Lance, Lumber, Battery, Balloon, Abutment, Telegraph, Trestle, Forge, Tool Wagons and more.  Another seldom-covered essential vehicle dating to America’s horse-drawn military era is the Ambulance.  With origins in a multiplicity of uses, including as a stage and officer’s wagon, there is still a lot to be uncovered about this particular design.

1968 Evan Ambulance

This rare illustration dates to 1868 and shows one view of an ambulance designed by Thomas Evans.  It’s from an original promotional booklet in our collection and held in the Wheels That Won The West® Archives.

It’s been close to a century since the legendary Studebaker Bros. Company sent horse-drawn military vehicles into the field.  From heavy army wagons to light carts and artillery pieces, the company created a host of vehicle types for use by the military.  To that point, not long ago, I ran across an 1898 article referencing “Rucker” ambulances that Studebaker was building for the Spanish-American War.  Originally designed by Brigadier General D.H. Rucker, the layout came into use during the latter part of the Civil War.  This week, I thought I’d pass along a part of that story from the well-known, early trade publication called, “The Hub.” 

“The half-tone illustration herewith represents one of six train loads of United States Government ambulances, built by Studebaker Bros. Manufacturing Co., South Bend, Ind.  This company has received orders for 500 of these ambulances since the outbreak of hostilities with Spain, and up to the present time they have shipped 316;  50 are to be delivered weekly until the order is filled.  These are known as the Rucker ambulance.  The sides are composed of three white duck curtains which may be rolled up if desired.  Under the front end of the wagon and extending the full width of it is a water tank 16 x 9 inches.  The inside of the body is fitted out to accommodate six persons.  Two adjustable partitions are made to fit in the bottom, which may be taken out when not in use.  Each of these partitions is capable of accommodating one person.  Two swings are suspended from the top, leaving room for two bodies to be placed above the lower partitions.  The wagons will be finished in natural wood.  In addition to the ambulances, the Studebaker Co. received orders for 1,000 army wagons, 500 of which have been delivered and the remaining 500 are underway…”  

Studebaker Ambulances

This late-1890’s photo shows dozens of Rucker-style ambulances leaving the Studebaker factory in South Bend. 

Rucker Ambulance

The Rucker ambulance design was used for decades by the U.S. Army.

As with virtually every aspect of America’s first transportation industry, the subject of early ambulances is more complex than many realize.  Ambulance styles were varied and included numerous designs like the Rucker, Wheeling, Coolidge, Moses, and Tripler patterns as well as others, such as Thomas Evan’s 1868 concept shown in the first image above.  Some designs received additional credentials as found in the 1865 patent awarded to Benjamin Howard.  While certain layouts might be similar, others differed by a host of considerations including interior features, body size, weight, spring configurations, and overall functionality concerns – such as the ability of the front wheels to turn under the body of the vehicle. 

If this week’s blog has whetted your appetite for more information, you’re in luck.  In 2004, the Carriage Museum of America published a detailed book on the subject of horse-drawn military, civilian, and veterinary ambulances.  If it’s not part of your library, I’d recommend it.  It’s full of information and you can still find it on-line from a number of sources. 

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.

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

A Legendary Roundup in the West

A few weeks ago, I gave a presentation on America’s first transportation industry to a local historical group.  A portion of the sixty-minute talk covered a wide variety of wood-wheeled vehicles produced during the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.  As part of that segment, I discussed a few examples of tall-sided western freighters and included a rare photo showing a half dozen large wagons engaged in an extraordinary event that took place in 1909.

Truth is, there was a lot of transitioning taking place during that year.  Henry Ford’s Model T was only a few months old.  It was the last, full year of production for Moline wagons prior to being purchased and rebranded by John Deere.  The world’s first military plane – The Wright Military Flyer – was purchased in 1909 by the U.S. Army Signal Corp and legendary Apache leader, Geronimo as well as renowned western artist, Frederic Remington, both passed away that year.  In the midst of so much change, thankfully, one other fading part of America’s western landscape was being rounded up and preserved. 

Michel Pablo’s buffalo roundup is documented with text and photos in this rare pamphlet published in 1909.

For centuries, bison – by the tens of millions – roamed America’s plains.  They were a powerful symbol of sustenance, freedom, culture, and the majestic lure of the West.  Nonetheless, by the turn of the twentieth century, there is believed to have only been around 1,000 of these creatures left in America.  The biggest of the herds was in Montana on the Flathead Indian Reservation. This herd was originally started by Samuel Walking Coyote.  Begun from 4 orphaned calves, the herd slowly grew to just over a dozen and was sold to Michel Pablo and Charles Allard.  By 1900, Allard had passed away but the herd numbered several hundred strong.  All was going well until Pablo lost his grazing rights due to the government opening up the Flathead Indian reservation to settlers. 

Pablo tried, unsuccessfully, to sell the herd to the U.S. government.  At the time, there wasn’t sufficient support to purchase them.  Fortunately, the Canadian government did recognize the herd's value and made the deal with Pablo.  There were just a few rather sizeable problems.  They had to be rounded up and shipped via train cars to Canada.  As the work started, it became clear that the herd was much larger than expected.  It meant more challenges and more time would be needed to complete the task.  Ultimately, the roundups took years to complete.  Also… these weren’t domesticated cattle.  They were wild beasts with minds of their own.  They could be dangerous, running through heavy fences and rail cars, trampling anything in their way.  As the character, Pea Eye, on the legendary western movie, “Lonesome Dove” warned, “Them bulls will hook ya!” 

Some were able to be driven to the rails while others had to be caught in remote pens and hauled to rail yards for shipment to Canada.  You might be wondering how the bison were hauled?  Specially-built, tall-sided freight wagons were heavily reinforced for the cargo.  I’ve never seen any size specifications of these vehicles but, from the photo below, it’s clear they were a sight to behold.  Bulls, calves, and cows rocking the wagons and hitting the thick sideboards would have made transporting difficult and perhaps required more stops along the way. 

This rare photo shows the tall-sided, heavy duty wagons used to haul a number of America’s last buffalo to the protection of Canada.

Rounding up buffalo on horseback proved to be an enormous task for Michel Pablo.

A recent story on Fox News highlighted the return of a number of direct descendants of these buffalo to the same Montana reservation this year.  To read more about it, click here. 

Over and over, America’s early wagon industry is proven to be tied to some of this country’s most unique and legendary events.  From early freighting and mining to ranching and farming, it’s an all-out historical rush, packed with stories just waiting to be told.  

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.