The Topic:
Wagons & Other Horse-drawn

Easier - Horse-drawn vehicles have been used throughout the world since early times for all kinds of transportation and farming. There are many styles of vehicles which are pulled by horses and mules. While they are still needed in parts of the world for this purpose, most horse-drawn vehicles today are used for recreation and competition.
Harder - Much of the United States was populated by people moving cross-country in horse-drawn vehicles. It wasn't necessary to have modern roads to accomplish this because the vehicles could go across open fields, trails, or even rivers as long as there was room for the vehicle. Even before this time, horse-drawn vehicles were used throughout the world for transportation of people and possessions. They were used for a wide range of purposes from war to ceremonial pageantry.
In today's society, there are still a few places where these vehicles are still in use, such as Amish communities where horse-drawn vehicles are used for daily transportation. In parts of Western United States and Canada, many ranches still use horse-drawn vehicles to transport hay to feed their cattle and some even still use horses to pull their chuck wagon when they are out on roundup. For entertainment, they are used for chariot racing, sulky racing, and competitive driving. In cities all across the world, people enjoy pleasurable carriage rides.
Horse-drawn vehicles are fascinating because of the wide variety of uses and styles. In the United States and Canada, there are five major breeds of horses used for this purpose. Horse-drawn vehicles are an integral part of our history and culture.
Carriages from Duetsches Museum
When did the addition of spring suspension in horse-drawn vehicles become common? Why was it important? How fast did the 1895 mail coach go? How many horses pulled it?
Related Museum Sites:
1) 1863 San Francisco Horse Drawn Street Car from the California Trolley and Railroad Corporation
2) Cabs and Carriages Photographs
3) Horse-drawn Ambulance from Yale-New Haven Hospital
4) Horse-Drawn Cabs, Their Drivers and Their Times
5) Horse-drawn Railway
6) Horse Drawn Vehicles from Henry Ford Museum & Greenfield Village
7) Horse Drawn Vehicles form The New York Museum of Transportation
8) Horse Drawn Vehicles from Wolverhampton Museum of Industry
Evolution of the Wheel from Owls Head Transportation Museum
Read about the first wheels and note the changes to spoked wheels and iron tires which were both used on horse drawn vehicles.
Related Websites:
2) Invention of the Wheel by M. Bellis
3) Invention of the Wheel from Ancient Civilization, a 2000 ThinkQuest Internet Project
4) Wheel from Wikipedia
5) Wheel Revisited by J.H. Lienhard
6) Wheeled Vehicles by the End of the Fourth Millennium BC: A Euro-centric View
Horse-drawn Vehicles from Northern Arizona University's Cline Library Image Database
Enjoy 36 horse-drawn vehicle images. Look for differences in size and shape and purpose.
Related Websites:
2) Horse-drawn Vehicles from Carriages Berrard & Sons (Note: Click on the buggy and "Listing of Products" in upper left to find lots of pictures of different types of horse-drawn vehicles)
Mifflinburg Buggy Museum
Visit a real old fashioned buggy maker’s shop.
Other Websites of Makers of Horse-drawn Vehicles:
2) Bartels' Mancos Valley Stage Line
3) Covered Wagons, Carriages, & More
4) Great Northern Livery Company Inc.
5) Hansen Wheel & Wagon Shop
6) Justin Carriage Works
7) Shipshewana Harness & Supplies
You may also want to visit these related eduScapes websites: (1) Horses from 42eXplore, (2) Mustang from NatureScapes, and (3) Oregon Trail also at 42eXplore. For other transportation topics, check out (4) automobiles, (5) flight, (6) railroads, and (7) ships and boats - - all from eduScapes 42eXplore.
After visiting several of the websites, complete one or more of the following activities.
Create A Wagon Train Journal. First visit online diaries and journals of people who made an overland trip to the West:
1) 1882 Wagon Train: There's a Long, Long Trail A Winding . . . by J.E. McDowell
2) Across the Plains in '64 by Prairie Schooner to Oregon by A.D. Clinkinbeard.
3) Diary of George Edwin Bushnell: Trip across the Plain in 1864
4) Gold Rush Diary Of George Bonniwell (Part 1 0f 5)
5) Journal of our Travels across the Mountains to California by G.R. Hamerick
Read or skim parts of some of these accounts to gain the feel for traveling across country in the 1800’s by horse-drawn vehicle. Then imagine you are part of a wagon train and create a one-week journal of your fictional overland trip. Describe where you travel, what you see, and everyday events and activities on the trail.
Become A Horse-drawn Vehicle Expert. Visit sites like the Sturquell Wagon Collection from Texas Cowboy Hall of Fame. Take the tour and identify the seven different kinds of horse-drawn vehicles. Next, choose one type and find out what occupations employed it. Where would someone use your horse-drawn vehicle – city, country, or both? Describe how it was used. Use the resources at some of the other sites to learn more about your type of vehicle. Summarize your findings and include a picture or drawing of your vehicle.
Compare and Contrast Two Horse-drawn Carriages. Explore sites like the Carriage Museum Gallery and Carriage Tour from the Carriage Association of America. Select two different carriages and then note their similarities and differences. Identify at least ten things that are different and five that are alike. Share your list with a group and then create a group listing of all comparisons.
Focus On Circus Wagons. Visit sites such as (1) Historic Circus Wagons, (2) Loading The Circus Train - Photo Gallery from Circus World Museum, (3) Parade Wagons of the Circus, and (4) Miscellaneous Wagons from the Great Circus Parade. When provided, note the dates when a wagon was made or used. How did the wagons get to larger towns after 1870? What kinds of decorations were used on circus wagons? What would you put on the side of a circus wagon if you had a chance to design one? Draw your original design for a circus wagon, provide a front and side view.
Complete A Covered Wagon WebQuest. Follow or adapt the procedures found at Wagons West – A Covered Wagon Train Quest by L. Haines.
Plan Your Own Wagon Trip. Start with a visit to Wagon Travel from The Long Riders' Guild. Here you can read about modern-day wagon journeys. Then plan your own wagon journey of at least 800 miles. Calculate the amount of time needed, the calendar span that would be optimal, map out the route, and calculate the costs for equipment, supplies, and horses.
Construct A Model Of A Horse-drawn Vehicle. Select one of the many types of vehicles used historically or still in recreational use today. Construct a model of your choice making it as accurate and detailed as possible.
Websites By Kids For Kids
Westward Ho Bulletin Board
Read what other students have experienced in their classroom adventure in the Westward Ho Collaboration Wagon Train.
More Horse-drawn Vehicles Websites
Amish Buggy
Learn about the different types of buggies used by Amish today.
Related Websites:
2) Amish Buggy Safety from Ohio State University Extension
3) Amish Buggy Trivia and Information
4) Buggy Accidents
5) Used Amish Buggy Lot . . .
Being Taken for a Ride: The Case Against Horse-drawn Vehicles for Tourism
This website from Britain advocates not using horse-drawn vehicles for tourists.
Borax: The Twenty Mule Team
The Borax twenty mule team is one of the most memorable icons of the American West.
Related Websites:
2) 20 Mule Team Days
3) Boron Twenty Mule Team Museum
4) Bruce Morgan's '49ers
5) God Made Mules A-Purpose by H.O. Weight
Carriage Association of America
This is the is the oldest and largest international organization devoted to the preservation and restoration of horse-drawn carriages and sleighs.
Carriages from The Monarchy Today (Great Britain)
How are horse drawn carriages used by the Monarchy in Great Britain today?
Chuckwagons from Chuck Wagon Central
Learn the history of the cattle drive innovation created by Texas rancher, Charlie Goodnight.
Related Website:
2) Chuckwagon History
Code of Practice for Horse Drawn Vehicles from U.K. Dept. of Transportation
Here you find government guidelines for using horse-drawn vehicles.
Similar Website:
2) Guidelines for the Operation of Horse-drawn Carriages on City Streets from City of
Vancouver (British Columbia, Canada)
Concord Coach
Built by Abbott, Downing and Company, the Concord stagecoach was used extensively in the west due to its design in addition to being exported to Australia and Africa.
Related Websites:
2) Concord Coach Photos
3) Concord Stagecoach from Linecamp
3) Donnelly Stagecoach
4) Historical Stagecoach
5) Stagecoach, That Staple of Western Lore, Was an Adventure All in Itself by W. Bagley from
Utah History To Go
6) Wells Fargo Stagecoaches
Draft Horse Journal Online
This is the online version of the world's foremost heavy horse and mule publication.
Related Website:
2) Draft Page by M. Robinson & M. MacDonald
Farmer Brown's Plow Shop
This website features horse drawn equipment for farming and logging.
F. Ronstadt Company Wagon Works from The University of Arizona Library
Fred Ronstadt first came to Tucson in 1882 as an apprentice blacksmith at the wagon shop of Dalton and Vasquez. By 1888 he had mastered his craft and in 1892 opened his first wagon making establishment.
Hand & Horse Drawn Apparatus from the Hall of Flame Museum of Firefighting
View a collection of antique firefighting equipment including several horsedrawn units.
Related Website:
2) Horse Drawn Apparatus
Horse and Buggy Days by J.A. Graybeal from the Carroll County Times
Prior to the advent of the automobile in the early twentieth century, horses provided most of the private transportation for local residents. Nearly every household possessed a horse and buggy or a farm wagon which was used to transport the family around the county. A sleigh was used when snow and ice covered the roads. Horse drawn vehicles were generally reliable and safe, however, accidents were not uncommon.
Horse-drawn Vehicles from Inventing Entertainment: The Motion Pictures and Sound Recordings of the Edison Companies
This site includes a collection of old movie clips featuring horse-drawn vehicles.
Mass Transportation in the Cities of America by B.J. Cudahy from the Federal Transit Administration
As cities in America grew into larger and larger places during the 1800's, special kinds of vehicles and services were developed to allow people to travel easily, safely and conveniently within these cities.
Related Websites:
2) Growth of American Cities: The Draft Horse In Urban America from International Museum
of the Horse
3) Hooves and Rails: A History of the Tucson Street Railway 1897-1906 by W.E. Caywood &
K. Glaab
Riding the Overland Stage, 1861
Read Mark Twain's description of his trip.
Roman Chariot Racing
Possibly the oldest spectacular sport in Rome, chariot racing dates back at least to the sixth century BCE.
Related Websites:
2) Ancient Egyptian Chariot Making
3) Chariot Race from The Learning Channel
4) Chariots and Chariotry
5) Chariot in Egyptian Warfare by T. Fox
6) Horses in Harness from Horses in Ancient Greece
7) Roman Entertainment
8) Use of Horses in Ancient Rome
Rural Heritage
This bimonthly journal, online since 1997, focuses on the support of small farmers and loggers who use draft horse, mule and ox power.
Related Websites:
2) 1900 Horse-Powered Farm from Living History Farms (Urbandale, IA)
3) Early 20th Century Farming Practices
Six-Horse Hitch: Wheelers, Swings, and Leaders from The Overland Trail
Learn about this standard hitch for the stagecoach line.
Related Websites:
2) 30 Horse Hitch
3) Famed 40 Horse Hitch . . .
4) Three-Abreast Draft Horse Hitch by D. Wagner
Wagon Plans from Hansen Wheel & Wagon Shop
After purchasing these scale plans, one could build small models or full size vehicles.
Wagons, Caravans, Vardos from Gypsy Collections
The Romany Gypsies seem to have taken to the wagon or vardo about the middle of the nineteenth century.
Related Websites:
2) Gypsy Vardo
3) Vardo
4) Vardo
Learn about the wagons used on the Oregon Trail.
Related Websites:
2) Conestoga - A Brief History
3) Conestoga Wagon
4) Conestoga Wagon from the Mennonite Historical Society of Canada
5) Overland Wagon from National Park Service
6) Prairie Schooners from End of the Oregon Trail Interpretive Center
7) Types of Covered Wagons from the Central Nevada Emigrant Trail Association (CNETA)
8) Wagons on the Trails West by A. Ackemann
When Horse Was King by A. Duplessis
The Carriage Era began in Europe in the seventeenth century, reached its zenith in the second half of the nineteenth century and came to a rapid close with the invention of the automobile in the first decades of the twentieth century. This era was characterized by two factors; the enormous variety of vehicle types, and the widespread use of horse drawn vehicles for personal and public transportation.
Related Websites from International Museum of the Horse:
2) Growth of American Cities: The Draft Horse In Urban America
3) Major American Horse Breeds
4) Origin of the Draft Horse
Websites For Teachers
How to Build Your Own Covered Wagon (Grade 5)
Here are the plans for a cooperative learning activity: building a covered wagon.
Related Websites:
2) Building a Covered Wagon #1
3) Building a Covered Wagon #2
Westward HO! by L. Donlan and K. Ferenz
Westward HO! is a five week classroom project and online event! In the first week, you will organize your learners for the adventure, helping them assume real identities, organize into wagon families, pack their belongings, buy their supplies, and acquire background knowledge of the period.
horse-drawn vehicle
Oregon Trail
vis a vis
covered wagon
double hitch
racing sulky
stage coach
multiple hitch
Santa Fe Trail
colonial life
Hansom cab
wild horse
horse collar
prairie schooner
ships & boats
competitive driving
livery stable
chuck wagon
hitching post
draft horse
mud wagon
single hitch
"Old West"
stone boat
pioneer life
Created by Miriam Rose, 3/03
Adapted by Annette Lamb and Larry Johnson, 3/03.