Thursday, October 15, 2015

Wagons of the West

Have you ever wondered about the various conveyances the pioneers used?  I admit, for the longest time, I never gave it much thought and lumped them all together. But just as we have many makes and models of vehicles today that serve a variety of purposes and functions, so did the wagons of the nineteenth century.  Here is a small sampling of the most popular vehicles, and what made them unique. 

Conestoga- Perhaps one of the most recognizable wagons, these wagons had a large capacity, able to carry up to five tons of cargo. Their bowed construction helped to keep the goods toward the center.  Often, people erroneously mistake these for the wagons used by the pioneers, but the reality was, Conestoga wagons were too heavy for such a trip.

Farm Wagon- Simple and practical, these were widely popular and constructed for durability, not style. They were designed to be sturdy and carry heavy loads for daily use. These wagons typically did not have any form of suspension.

Covered Wagons- Often called prairie schooners, these are what many of the pioneers used as they crossed the American wilderness.  Starting with a farm wagon, five to six round metal frames were added and then covered with a heavy canvas such as duck cloth.

Stagecoach- Another icon of the west, the stagecoach transported people, mail, and gold. It had a suspension system in the form of thick leather straps that absorbed the shock of the bouncing.

Buckboard- These were similar in function to a farm wagon, but crafted differently. The name comes from the board at the front used for a footrest and protection against the horse’s hoof in case of bucking. The seats were attached to flexible board slats that ran from the front to rear axles.  Typically, there were two bench seats, with the rear seat having the option to be removed for more cargo space.

Photo copyrights in order: 1-Public Domain 5-dollarphotoclub/pattiguerrero


  1. Very educational and enjoyable. Thank you. Doris McCraw/Angela Raines-author