Have you noticed that, in honor of the holiday season, it’s now “snowing” here on the blog?

In the spirit of the cold, white, wet stuff, here’s a look at a snow plow in Boston, c. 1920 … when the plows were a bit slower and quieter than they are today …



… continued from Friday’s post …

“When I entered this valley, besides the herd of horses, I found twelve wagons, twenty-four horses, and sixty-three persons — men, women, and children — all for Ogden. The other two teams were for Salt Lake city. It is six o’clock in the evening and time to prepare for the night. Supper comes first, but there is no wood of which to make a fire. I have kerosene oil, but I use it for my lantern and lighting a fire, and have found it very convenient many times for this purpose.

“Of these teams, there are two which have no men with them. They are conducted by two women and eight children, four boys and four girls — ten persons in all. These women are Germans, and they had brought with them the spare wood from last night’s camp, and they were the only ones who had any wood. This wood made tea and coffee for the whole camp.

“After supper, preparations for the night were made. The ground is quite wet. The camp for the night had eleven tents, all arranged in a circle. In the rear of each tent is a wagon, and the horses are made fast to the rear of each. I was invited to come into the circle, but declined, having no tent — preferring to sleep with my cattle. This camp is under good discipline, and has a watchman for each night. This is essential; should anything strange or serious occur in or around the camp it is made known to all.

“Having the camp arranged for the night and while sitting around, one of the company said, ‘Stranger from California, we would like to hear from you, about your travels. We are going to Oregon, now give us a route thereto.’ ‘Captain, what part of Oregon do you intend to settle in?’ ‘We intend to settle on lands that have been cultivated to some extent, say in the vicinity of Portland,’ said the captain. ‘Portland is about one hundred and twenty-five miles from the Pacific Ocean. Now, I would go from here to Green River city, following the Union Pacific Railroad to Ogden, by way of Evanston. At Ogden take the Central Pacific Railroad to Corinne, Kelton, Terrace, Wells, Elko, Carlin. About five miles beyond Carlin, take the old Emigrant trail to Beowawe; there you are on the railroad again. Then to Battle Mountain, Golconda, Winnemucca, Humboldt, Wadsworth, Reno. Then take the Virginia city and Marysville turnpike to Webber’s Lake, Jackson’s Ranche, Graniteville, Nevada city, Grass Valley to Marysville. There you should take the California and Oregon road to Oregon.”

(I sure hope someone in the wagon train was copying down those directions!)

… continuing from yesterday …

“I had not been here more than an hour before a team came along the right trail and stopped when he got to me. I said, ‘Stranger, I have been trying to travel since the storm, but my horse slips so bad I am afraid she will injure herself.’ [He replied,] ‘I am in the same fix. It is dangerous traveling; I have been traveling an hour down the mountains, and my horse has been down twice. I am looking for water. Antelope Springs are not far from here. Have you come past them, stranger?’ ‘No, sir,’ I answered. ‘Then they must be on this [other] trail.’

“[I asked if he was alone.] ‘No, stranger; there is another team a little ways back.’ ‘Where are you from?’ I asked. ‘I am from Laramie. Where are you from?’ asked the stranger. ‘I am from Ogden.’ ‘You, from Ogden!’ I am going there and then to Salt Lake City,’ said the stranger. ‘What! Are you a Mormon?’ ‘No, I am not a Mormon. Are you?’ asked the stranger. ‘No, I am not, but I know something about them, as I have lived amongst them some eight months. I left Ogden on the 14th and have come so far since that time.’ ‘Where are you going to?’ asked the stranger. ‘I am going to Laramie,’ I replied. ‘How is the road to Ogden? What rivers have you forded?’ ‘I forded Bear river, Muddy creek, Hams Fork, and Bitter creek. These are all of any account; small creeks are the worst to cross,’ I answered. He went on up the left trail, I following in his rear.

“We had gone but a short distance when we came to a small creek, where we stopped and gave our cattle water. We then went on our way and came to a good valley where we found a herd of horses, ninety in number, in charge of them were two men, who were bound to Laramie.

“Here, we also found an emigrant train, twelve in number, bound for Oregon. Entering this valley, on our left are the springs, known as Antelope Springs. It is three o’clock and all propose to stop until we can travel. There is not much grass but plenty of water. The herd of horses have eaten nearly all the grass. I secured the cow with her lariat, the horse I dared not turn loose, nor stake her out. This is a wonderful place; not more than fifty acres in extent, almost surrounded by mountains. There are two entrances to the valley: one from the East and one from the West. A fine harbor it makes; only one thing is lacking, that is wood. Not a particle of fuel can be found, it has been so closely gathered up. I was informed that here was the best water to be found between Ogden and Laramie.

“Here I will say that, if I ever travel in this manner again, I will carry an oil stove for cooking purposes; it will save much labor in gathering fuel. You can gather sage brush, but wood is almost out of the question across the plains.”

When we last checked in with Mr. Johnson, he was just settling in for the night, after having shared a cooking fire with a group of fellow travelers he’d met on the trail.

“On the morning of the 29th, all hands around the camp were up early, making ready for a departure; it is a lively camp. Cattle were fed, wagons greased, and breakfast prepared. I was invited to breakfast with the rest of the company, all making the ground our table. The breakfast comprised bacon, eggs, warm bread and coffee. Remember, I have a cow that has given milk every day since calving, she is now four years old and has had two calves. On this occasion I found milk for all. After breakfast we made ready and moved on our respective ways. It is six o’clock as I leave the camp. It is a fine morning and the road good.

“The wind is freshening up and clouds are gathering, it looks as if we are to have a change of weather; it is warm and sultry and begins to look like rain. I crowd on as fast as I can — remember, it is all walk and nothing else — after a while it began to rain the wind blew a gale. I stopped to make the things on the wagon more secure, as I could see no place for shelter or cover, we have to stand and take it. A flash of lightning and a peal of thunder startled us and set me thinking of my loneliness; sometimes this thought troubles me considerably. What if some serious accident happens to me?

“The storm did not last long, but it left the roads dangerous traveling. My horse could scarcely ascend a hill, but descending was even worse, on account of the slipperyness. I continued on, hoping to come to some place where we could stay, at least overnight. I came to a cross-trail, leading to the right and left. Not knowing which to take, I concluded to stop, as I have found such trails to my disadvantage.”

to be continued …

Thanks to Mindy Groff (our occasional guest-blogger from the Carriage Museum of America) for this post on one of the lesser-known trade journals …


When you think about historic carriage periodicals, the first titles that come to mind are probably The Hub and The Carriage Monthly. We talk about these publications often, as they were the leading journals of the carriage era. But let’s not overlook the other journals that were published during this time period, appealing to smaller markets within the carriage community. This week I’ve spent some time reading Vehicle Dealer, and it’s a great resource for this particular aspect of the carriage trade.

Vehicle Dealer cover


The first volume of the Vehicle Dealer was published in April 1902, and publication continued until 1911. It was printed by the Ware Bros. of Philadelphia, whom you may recognize as the publishers of The Carriage Monthly. The journal was targeted to the fifty or sixty thousand dealers doing business at that time, with a two-fold purpose: to establish communication between these dealers, and to make dealers aware of developments in carriage building so that they could stay ahead in the business. In their first issue, the Vehicle Dealer’s editors wrote that “trade conditions have for some time demanded, and now imperatively demand, that a paper of this character and purpose be published.”

Each issue features articles about trade conditions, shipping and freight costs, carriage repository best practices, ethics of business, and other topics of interest to carriage dealers. The journal was also a great opportunity for wholesale carriage manufacturers to promote their products to these dealers. The advertisements featured new styles, brag about cost and quality, and announce catalog availability.


Vehicle Dealer Ad


The advertisements were endorsed as being a service to the dealers, in that they could use each issue as a catalog of sorts in their shops. What should you do if a customer is about to leave without making a purchase? Here’s the suggestion put forth in Vol. 1 No. 1: “When it comes time for the visitor to walk out, after he has looked all over the stock and sees nothing to take his eye, the dealer has one card to play. Let him invite the outgoing, would-be buyer to his office, ask him to take a seat, lay down before him The Vehicle Dealer, open its advertising pages to him and say ‘Now, my friend, look over these 100 pages of carriage illustrations. They represent the latest and best makes of vehicles from all over the United States. Here, my friend, is the greatest carriage repository the world ever saw. Go through it page by page. Look at the description of each display, note the style, appearance, the good points. Turn on, page by page, and you will probably find what you want. If it is not there, it is not made.'” In 1905, the Vehicle Dealer even published a special supplement to the regular journal, the Manufacturers’ Vehicle Cyclopedia for New Styles. It left out the articles altogether, including instead a whole book of advertisements featuring new vehicle styles.

Want to learn more about the Vehicle Dealer? Come visit the library, or “like” us on Facebook! I’ll be sharing more advertisements from this publication over the next few weeks.

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