Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Newton Wagon Company

With a beginning dating prior to the California gold rush, the Newton Wagon Company produced a wide variety of vehicles during almost a century in business.  Several years ago, I wrote a brief history of this brand and you can still find the two-part article on our website by clicking here

Moving from New York to Batavia, Illinois in 1854, founder Levi Newton worked hard to establish the brand as a premium builder of buggies and carriages as well as a vast array of wagons including farm, freight, spring, delivery, mountain, potato, and rack bed wagons as well as teaming gears and lumber and log wagons.  The firm employed a number of different construction designs throughout its history.  As with many other brands, the paint and striping of earlier designs was often more flamboyant and ornamented.  Circular box rod washers, triple riveted side board cleats, and even multiple folding end gates were common on some models. 

Another unique feature of later Newton models is what was referred to as a ‘drop front hound.’  With this design the front hounds on the gear were curved downward.  This feature reduced wear and tear on the reach and sway bar while also allowing for tighter turning when the box was removed.   While a drop front hound is fairly easy to spot on a wagon gear, it was not common in the industry as a whole.  Even so, Newton was not the first to have promoted this feature.  As I shared in Volume One of the “Borrowed Time” western vehicle book series, the legendary Peter Schuttler brand actually had a patent on a very similar design in the 1880’s (see a portion of the patent below).

As a further note to this innovation, it doesn’t appear that Newton made use of the design until well after the original Schuttler patent expired.  For historians and collectors, it’s an important point as collective examination of all vehicle features can help to identify, date, authenticate, and place values on individual wagons.   That commitment to historical details and collector support is another reason we continually search for the rarest details from this industry.  As of this writing, illustrated Newton materials in our Wheels That Won The West® Archives span almost sixty years from the 1870’s through the 1920’s. 

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