Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Wagon accessories…

In a previous blog post, we talked about a number of differences that can set vintage dead axle wagons apart from each other.   Among those distinctions are areas that might be termed ‘options’ for these vehicles.  Looking through the aged pages of period catalogs, just what was considered to be equipment or feature upgrades with many makers – particularly of farm, emigrant and ranch-style wagons?

Certainly bows and bow staples were accessories.  While it may be tempting to look at this feature as somewhat of an age indicator, truth is that it has less to do with age and more to do with region, vehicle purpose/use and vehicle type.  There are certainly examples of surviving farm-style wagon boxes from the 1870’s that were never equipped with bow staples.

Other areas of the wagon that were generally considered options and, as such, commanded an upcharge to the base vehicle price are the footboard, brake style & hardware, rough lock chain & associated hardware, drag shoe, spring eat, type of rear end gate, neck yoke, doubletree & singletrees, stay chains, extra box sides, scoop board, tire rivets, tire bolts, larger tire widths, track widths, bois’d arc wheels, steel extension skeins, skein size, reach type (rotating, banded, slip), box tighteners, bolster springs and tongue springs.

Ultimately, elements that constitute an “accessory” can sometimes lead to questions as to why one vehicle has a feature and another doesn’t.  It’s an era worthy note as these distinctions play important roles in the provenance, character and overall personality of each set of wheels.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Update: 2013 “Borrowed Time” book series

Sometimes it’s hard to keep a secret… especially when elements of legendary western history that have heretofore gone unreported are part of that disclosure.  There’s an excitement in those discoveries, though, that naturally creates enthusiasm for sharing details.  For those who have honored us with a commitment to the first volume of our new western vehicle book series, I’m confident next year’s edition showcasing Volume 2 will create an especially high level of intrigue.  As part of that commitment to our customers, we’re already working on ways to reward your patronage of the first volume with special considerations on follow-up orders for Volume 2. 

One of the great aspects of our library of original vehicle images is that it is a living archive with regular additions and discoveries.  To that point, within some of our more recent acquisitions is an original cabinet card showing an ox train pulling Peter Schuttler brand freight wagons.  The location of the late 1870’s western image was captured on a well-known and historic part of the American frontier (we’ll share more in the book).  Ultimately, the timeframe, itself, is such a significant period within America’s western legacy that it gives me pause every time I peer into the photo.  Combined with numerous other ultra-scarce images of Peter Schuttler freight wagons and ranch wagons as well as farm and emigrant wagons, this next book in the series is sure to be a strong reference for years to come. 

While Volume 2 is slated to feature the most coverage of the legendary Schuttler brand to date, other sections of the upcoming book are also scheduled to include more profiles of different makers and vehicle types as well as technology, vintage photo essays and much more.  Clearly, the upcoming edition will have numerous vehicle details not generally available to western enthusiasts and we’re pleased to share so many rare elements previously unseen by contemporary audiences.  Thank you, again, to all who have added the first Volume of this series to their collection.  As the only series exclusively devoted to wagons and western vehicles, we remain committed to helping shed even more light on such an important part of America’s western frontier.
Legendary western actor and artist, Buck Taylor recently acquired Volume One of the “Borrowed Time” book series for his own library.
 LAST CALL… As of this posting, there are only a few copies of the first “Borrowed Time” book still available and we recommend you obtain yours now before Volume One is out-of-print.  (Due to this extremely limited quantity, please email us first to ensure availability prior to order) 
Wishing you and yours a wonderful Thanksgiving and Christmas season.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

The Power of Imperfections

We live in day and age where pressures to achieve ‘perceived’ perfection can easily create challenges.  Certainly, it’s a level of expectation that can overlook important considerations when it comes to collecting early, wood-wheeled vehicles.  To that point, I believe one of the greatest inhibitors in the early days of my own collecting may have come from the first wagon I purchased.  It had such vibrant, original paint that I (wrongly) assumed finding more like it would be as easy as the first one.  Years went by and I found myself focusing so closely on the single surface aspect of paint that I’m now convinced I likely overlooked some equally good finds – perhaps much more important – with less than stellar paint.  Ultimately, the lesson has been a valuable reminder to continually look closer at the entire vehicle as there are many other factors beyond paint that help create the total worth of these rolling western icons.   

Clearly, for collector quality vehicles, not all imperfections are desirable.  Some may require professional repair or conservative efforts.  However, even in those cases, great care should be taken before wiping a slate clean and totally eliminating every perceived flaw, as there are benefits to some deficiencies, especially those related to certain manufacturing and use blemishes.  More specifically, stress and wear marks are not only helpful in ascertaining originality but, likewise, contribute to numerous elements of character, authenticity and provenance.

A good case in point… some earlier vehicle designs have inconsistencies in the cast metal parts – a product of the times as well as the processes employed.  Unlike the refined and repeatable methods of assembly line production, original hand forged or cut metal within the makeup of early vehicles may also show variations of angles and shapes.  These early-era vehicles are increasingly scarce and preservation of these finds for future generations is just one of the intriguing responsibilities we share as 21st century stewards of history.   
Elsewhere, some elements of damaged metal can help share what stresses the parts were subjected to – all part of the important and personal story belonging to a set of wheels.  Likewise, striping and paint on many of these vehicles was often done by hand and the less-than-perfect lines will be part of the vehicle’s personality.  It’s likely that these hand created lines won’t match perfectly from one side to the other.  In many ways, they are one-of-a-kind works of art deserving appropriate respect.  Later brand marks were often more consistent as pre-formed stencils and pre-printed logo transfers were used.   

Ultimately, when gauging the best approach between preservation, conservation and restoration efforts, it can be helpful to obtain assistance from those who specialize in these evaluations.  With any new collector-quality ‘find’ it’s very possible that some work may need to be performed.   However, there is a growing recognition from many that measured caution and careful assessments should prevail prior to changing original elements of a vehicle.
With that, we’ll conclude by admitting that there isn’t enough room in this blog to fully discuss every circumstance a person may encounter.  Ultimately, that fact brings us back to where we started…The Power of Imperfections… Beyond the opportunity to retain important historical connections and details, surviving features themselves can play a valuable role in reinforcing the individuality of the vehicle while significantly adding to overall intrigue and interest.  

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Military Axle Repair Patent

The records in the U.S. Patent Office are overflowing with wagon-related patents, both applied for and granted.  However, by the late teens in the 20th century, a shift was taking place and patent applications were beginning to drop considerably.  The automobile had come to stay and its impact could be seen in sales as well as within the increasing lack of patent submissions for wagon parts and designs.  Times were certainly changing.  Even so, there remained enough uses for - and users of – wood wheeled vehicles that some individuals and businesses were still actively pursuing protection of their related ideas.

So it was in July of 1918, during the last months of fighting in WW1, that Charles Lavers of Canada submitted his idea for quickly repairing steel axle wagons.  The concept seemed to be particularly focused on military needs, especially those related to heavy gun limbers, ammunition vehicles and army escort wagons.  Spelled out in the old government archives is the dual-use concept of employing a spare axle and spindle as a lifting jack to both repair and subsequently replace broken steel axles quickly.  Purportedly, once a broken axle was raised, it could then be temporarily propped up, the lifting jack removed and re-used as a new axle section by clamping it in place over the broken axle.  Further, each spindle was to be fitted with both right and left hand threads, thereby accommodating use on either side of the wagon. 

While the idea sounds plausible, it would be interesting to see effects of its actual use as well as any data showing the durability and long-term soundness of such a quick fix within challenging terrain.  At best, it seems a short term solution that might have additional functionality trials.

That said, some elements of this idea have evolved into successful practices today.  In fact, many modern trailers are designed with integrated jacks and separate spare axle spindles – new twists on an old idea.  Ultimately, it seems that, no matter the era, the need to be prepared and keep moving forward remains essential to both individual progress and national security.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

National Stagecoach & Freight Wagon Association

We recently received a notice from the National Stagecoach & Freight Wagon Association that they will be holding their 6th Annual Conference in Virginia City, Montana from July 10th - 14th, 2013. The gathering will include a tour of the Nevada City wagon collection along with a number of feature-length vehicle presentations and many more activities.

As a bonus, Virginia City will also be celebrating their 150th Anniversary and, with so many plans in place, the event promises to capitalize on a wealth of western history.  Visit the NSFWA website for more details at

While we're on the subject of notices, we also received word from another group out west of an upcoming event.  As part of that update, we'd like to send our congratulations to Chandler, Arizona as they celebrate their centennial this year.  Presented by the Chandler Museum, this free admission fun-for-all features a world of activities including a chuck wagon cookoff between ten historic wagons and cooks in period attire, live music, blacksmithing, riata making, candle dipping, wagon rides, historic home tours and more.  Meals cooked on the chuck wagons are just $10 but, you may want to arrive early to make sure you get a ticket.  They tend to go fast at these types of gatherings.

For more details on the Chandler Centennial Celebration and the November 10th cookoff, visit their website at or give them a call at 480-782-2717.