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.