When looking at a western vehicle there can be numerous possible variations in construction, design, and features. In fact, the wheels alone can harbor dozens of differences. Many of those distinctions can deal with the way the spokes are attached to the hub. Some lighter spring wagons may use a Sarven hub while heavier wheels may employ an Archibald hub. Still others may utilize a metal-clad wooden hub. The more traditional methods use a painted wooden hub - but even then, there can still be variables in the design.
|- Typical Wood Hub Spoke Arrangement -|
Most often in early wagons, wooden hubs are mortised to accept evenly spaced and similarly positioned spokes. Occasionally though, the spokes may be staggered, with odd/even spokes alternating positions on the hub. These designs are referred to as “dodge mortised hubs” and they have a purpose beyond the unique and artistic look they deliver. Early builders utilizing this feature commonly claimed that the arrangement helped brace, stiffen and strengthen the wheel. In fact, many small child’s wagons from the period also used this configuration on the wheels.
Just as with modern day auto makers, early wagon manufacturers used their fair share of innovative design, engineered advantages, and advertising hyperbole to set themselves apart from competitors. Today, we do ourselves and the individual vehicles proper justice when we notice these unique features. Ultimately, they’re all clues helping to piece together important stories from America’s early transportation history.