As I’ve shared before in this blog, the January 2012 horse drawn vehicle symposium conducted by the Carriage Association of America and the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation was full of fascinating material. Each of the presentations was followed by a period of questions from the audience. One of the most interesting queries in this segment was posed to conservator, Brian Howard of B.R. Howard & Associates. An audience member asked how best to clean a fresh, original horse-drawn vehicle "find." Mr. Howard’s answer pointed to a Q-tip and steady supply of saliva.
While the abbreviated answer may not have 'seemed' to carry the details that some may have expected, it was a very appropriate reply for a number of reasons. Mr. Howard later shared that enzymes in saliva can actually help break down oily films and, with such capabilities, this readily-available fluid is often used in sensitive cleaning tests. Of course, vehicles with flaking paint require a different approach utilizing experienced direction and steady caution.
Ultimately, the straight-forward response clearly reinforced another important implication; that every project is unique and any purported “cleaning” should not be rushed but approached with a slow and very deliberate, professional intent. Too often, irreplaceable history and information, not to mention vehicle values and condition have been forever lost due to impatience, inexperience and disregard for the true worth of an original condition, antique wood-wheeled vehicle.
We offer our sincerest thank you to Brian Howard and his extraordinary team of professionals for their consistent, responsible and scholarly approach to conserving so much of the world’s history. Shown in this blog are a few images highlighting conservative work done on the legendary "Aluminum Wagon" built by Studebaker Bros. Manufacturing Company in 1893. If you’d like to see more of their exceptional conservative work, you can visit their website at