A group of wagon comes up, then far away with dust raising This is the scenery we can see constantly in most western movies. Wagon carried out an important character in the Westward Expansion and became a symbol of American west.
Some words about the Westward Expansion (from Pioneers: the American West) With the need to become the middleman in world trade, the United States sought to secure the west coast and in doing so, gain dominance over the western frontier. Westward Expansion into the American frontier in the 19th century, can be viewed as a development process beginning with the Mountains men who blazed the trails; the traders who developed commerce; and the miners and prospectors who enticed the would-be emigrants and pioneers to make the long trek into the Western frontier, seeking a new life. Obviously an efficient transportation method was needed as the foundation of west development. Wagon was exactly that method or tool.
Two kinds of wagon were used to go west at the time. The bigger one was Conestoga wagon. The ends were raked — they slanted outward from the bottom. The covering then provided more protection from rain and the cargo space was slightly larger. The floor of the wagon was curved so that the load wouldn’t shift. The Conestoga wagon could carry about 5000 pounds. The farm wagon was smaller. It was used most often to carry travelers’ belongings to Oregon or California. Usually the ends were straight up and down. The floor was not curved but the load was so tight it could not shift. The farm wagon could carry 2000 4000 pounds.
Mostly horses powered wagons. But sometimes the wagons would get stuck in mud or quicksand. People would have to help pull or push. Sometimes they would have to double team the wagon to get it out. Hills were sometimes problems too. For going up a steep hill they would use ropes or chains, double team the wagon, or remove things from the wagon. Going down hills they might lock the wheels.
Wagon had even become part of the western people s life. Texas rancher Charles Goodnight invented chuck wagon in 1866. He designed and added a chuck box and boot to the rear of his wagon and this became the prototype for all the chuck wagons that followed. Cooking utensils were installed on chuck wagons that the cook would need to provide hot meals for ten or more cowboys on long trail drives. The wagon box was used to carry the cowboys’ bedrolls and personal effects as well as bulk food supplies, feed for the horses and what ever else the crew felt was needed. It was not uncommon to hear a cowboy say that he worked for a “wagon” as opposed to a particular ranch.
Undoubtedly wagons contributed to the civilization and development of the American West. Wagons with those long hard trips recorded the history of people s expedition to the Wild West. When we think about the representative wagons today while in the speedy and comfortable cars, we could respect and remember the bravery, sturdy and power appeared in mythic West.