Conestoga wagon

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Conestoga wagon

(kŏn'əstō`gə), heavy freight-carrying vehicle of distinctive type that originated in the Conestoga region of Pennsylvania c.1725. It was used by farmers to carry heavy loads long distances before there were railroads to convey produce to markets. Later it was used to carry manufactured goods across the Alleghenies to frontier stores and settlements and to bring back the frontier produce. The transportation of goods by wagon trainwagon train,
in U.S. history, a group of covered wagons used to convey people and supplies to the West before the coming of the railroad. The wagon replaced the pack, or horse, train in land commerce as soon as proper roads had been built.
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 developed into a major business employing thousands of wagons before the railroads crossed the mountains c.1850. The larger Conestoga wagons, usually drawn by six horses, carried loads up to eight tons. The bottom of the wagon box was curved, rising at both ends, so that in going up and down hills the goods would shift less easily and the tailgate would be subjected to less strain. The same curve was carried out in the white hood, at first made of hempen homespun and later of canvas, which rose up and out at each end, covering the front and rear openings with a poke bonnet effect to keep out sun, rain, and dust. The wagons were striking and graceful vehicles as they moved over the hills and were often called "ships of inland commerce." The drivers usually rode the left wheel horse and are credited with originating the American custom of turning out to the right. The prairie schoonerprairie schooner,
wagon covered with white canvas, made famous by its almost universal use in the migration across the Western prairies and plains, and so called in allusion to the white-topped schooners of the sea. It was a descendant of the Conestoga wagon.
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 was a modification of the Conestoga wagon.

Bibliography

See study by G. Shumway and H. C. Frey (3d ed. 1968).

Conestoga wagon

famed covered wagon taking pioneers to West before railroads. [Am. Hist.: NCE, 623]
See: Journey

Conestoga wagon

horse-drawn freight wagon; originated in the Conestoga Creek region in Pennsylvania. [Am. Hist.: EB, III: 72]