Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Newton Wagon Company – An Early Find

This week marks our 200th consecutive blog post.  It’s hard to believe we’ve shared so much material over the last several years.  As I look back, I’m thankful that we’ve had a role in helping open up America’s western vehicle history to so many folks.  Day in and day out, it’s a brief reflection of our continual commitment to recovering rare details and documentation related to yesterday’s wooden vehicles.

While our files are too extensive to discuss every element they contain, our Wheels That Won The West® Archives have become a highly regarded and reliable resource dedicated to America’s early western transportation history.  Part of our stewardship in maintaining these archives involves continual research and a dedicated acquisition program.  Over the last two decades, that focus has allowed the “Wheels” archives to grow from a single photograph to literally thousands of images, business papers, and related sales pieces. 

Much of the reason we collect so many materials is to help expand the understanding of our nation’s first transportation industry.  The process helps us gain an even better grasp of our country’s roots as well as those of a particular wagon brand.  Having so much material to dig through, the collection paints a vivid picture of an entire industry that no other single source can replicate.

To that point, scarcely a week goes by that we’re not uncovering and securing information related to these early wooden wheels.  Just this week, we found evidence of a rare, unknown Concord coach that, at the turn of the 20th century, was being housed in shed in Bloomfield, Kentucky.  At this point, it’s uncertain what may have become of the old stage.  While it's design is almost a mirror of most known Abbot Downing Concords, careful examination of a surviving photo shows that there are differences.  Those differences, along with an accompanying written history, could be beneficial in tracking down and adding valuable provenance to an extraordinary set of wheels.  We're working with other knowledgeable sources to determine what can be gleaned from the photo and documentation.   

These rare, surviving letters, written and signed by D.C. Newton, provide even more insights into the legendary Newton Wagon Company.

Similarly, a few weeks ago, we were incredibly fortunate to obtain a series of letters from a well-known early wagon manufacturer.  The correspondence was written during the decade immediately following the end of the Civil War.  As many might imagine, it’s difficult to locate wagon maker correspondence from this and earlier periods.  Most written records like this have simply not survived, so anytime we dig up such rare glimpses into a notable past, we work hard to help procure and preserve them.  After all, these behind-the-scenes views can add immeasurable and incontrovertible knowledge to our nation's past.   

The specifics of what we found were... Sixteen letters dating from February of 1867 through April of 1875.  Most all of the letters are personally signed by D.C. Newton who was the business partner and son of Levi Newton, founder of the Newton Wagon Company.  Don Carlos (D.C.) Newton was born in 1832 and, upon the death of his father in 1879, he became president of the firm.    

The topics of the letters range from wages and available employment to accounts payable collections and family concerns.  One of the letters, dating to November of 1869, states that sales had come to a “standstill” and prospects for additional trade were “gloomy.”  Clearly, the interruption in commerce proved to be temporary as the company enjoyed a powerful reputation as a legendary brand throughout the late 1800’s and early 1900’s.  In fact, by the early 1870’s, the brand was seeing steady growth and was building as many as 1500 vehicles per year.  By the end of the decade, the Newton brand was listed as one of the top wagon makers in the West

Today, Newton continues to be a favorite among many collectors and early vehicle owners.  You can read even more about the company in a two-part story I wrote and posted to our website several years ago.

Emerson-Brantingham purchased the Newton Wagon Company in 1912 and began publishing detailed artworks to promote the legendary brand.

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.