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Conestoga wagon on Oregon Trail reenactment in 1961
US ArmyTransport Wagon
The Conestoga wagon is a heavy, broad-wheeled covered freight carrier used extensively during the late 1700s and 1800s in the United Statesmarker. It was large enough to transport loads up to 8 short tons (7 metric tons), and was drawn by 4 to 6 Conestoga horses.


The first Conestoga wagons originated in Pennsylvaniamarker around 1750 and are thought to have been introduced by Mennonite Germanmarker settlers. The name came from the Conestogamarker Valley near Lancaster, Pennsylvaniamarker. In colonial times the Conestoga wagon was popular for migration southward through the Great Appalachian Valley along the Great Wagon Road. After the American Revolution it was used to open up commerce to Pittsburghmarker and Ohiomarker. In 1820 rates charged were roughly one dollar per 100 pounds per 100 miles, with speeds about 15 miles (25 km) per day. The Conestoga, often in long wagon trains, was the primary overland cargo vehicle over the Appalachiansmarker until the development of the railroad. The wagon was pulled by six to eight horses or a dozen oxen. The wagon is shaped like a boat because it keeps the goods from falling out. A toolbox is attached to the side in case of repairs. The wagon bows is a cloth that protects passengers from heat, rain, and snow. The wheels helped the wagon from getting stuck in the mud.

The Conestoga wagon was cleverly built. Its floor curved upward to prevent the contents from tipping and shifting. The cracks in the body of the wagon were stuffed with tar to protect them from leaks while crossing rivers. Also for protection against bad weather, stretched across the wagon was a tough, white canvas cover. The frame and suspension were made of wood, while the wheels were often iron plated for greater durability. Water barrels built on the side of the wagon were used to hold water and toolboxes held tools needed for repair on the wagon. The Conestoga wagon was used for many types of travel including passage to California during the Gold Rush.

The term "Conestoga wagon" refers specifically to this type of vehicle; it is not a generic term for "covered wagon." The wagons used in the westward expansion of the United States were, for the most part, ordinary farm wagons fitted with canvas covers.

See also


  1. Wayne Works, Divco-Wayne Corp., Wayne Corp., School Bus, Wayne Wheeled Vehicles, Transicoach, Wayne Agricultural Co., Wayne Agricultural Works, Davis, Lawrence & Co., Witt-But...
  2. The Prairie Schooner Got Them There

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