The covered wagon or prairie wagon, historically also referred to as an ambulance,[1] a whitetop,[2][3] or a prairie schooner,[4] was a vehicle usually made out of wood and canvas that was used for transportation,[5] prominently in 19th-century America. With roots in the heavy Conestoga wagon developed for the rough, undeveloped roads and paths of the colonial East, the covered wagon spread west with American migration. The Conestoga wagon was far too heavy for westward expansion. Typical farm wagons were merely covered for westward expansion and heavily relied upon along such travel routes as the Great Wagon Road, the Mormon Trail and the Santa Fe and Oregon Trails, covered wagons carried settlers seeking land, gold, and new futures ever farther west.

A covered wagon replica at the High Desert Museum in Bend, Oregon

Throughout the 20th century, the covered wagon grew to become an icon of the American West.

History Edit

A Prairie Schooner on the Cariboo Road or in the vicinity of Rogers Pass, Selkirk Mountains, c. 1887, by Edward Roper (1833-1909).

Once breached, the moderate terrain and fertile land between the Appalachians and the Mississippi was rapidly settled. In the mid-nineteenth century thousands of Americans took a wide variety of farm wagons[6] across the Great Plains from developed parts of the Midwest to places in the West such as California, Oregon, Utah, Colorado, and Montana. Overland migrants typically fitted any sturdy wagon with several wooden or metal bows which arched high over the bed. Over this was stretched canvas or similar sturdy cloth, creating the distinctive covered wagon silhouette.

Prairie schooner is a fanciful name for the covered wagon, drawing on their broad white canvas covers, romantically envisioned as the sails of a ship crossing the sea.[7]

For "overlanders" migrating westward, covered wagons were a more common mode of transportation than wheelbarrow, stagecoach, or train. Oxen were the most common draft animal for pulling covered wagons, although mules and horses were also used. Authors of guidebooks written for emigrants noted that oxen were more reliable, less expensive, and nearly as fast as other options.[8]

Gallery Edit

See also Edit

References Edit

  1. ^ Harper, Douglas (2001–2022). "ambulance". The Online Etymological Dictionary. Retrieved July 18, 2022. In late 19c. U.S. the same word was used dialectally to mean 'prairie wagon.'
  2. ^ "Covered Wagon".
  3. ^
    1. Du Bose, John Witherspoon (1912). General Joseph Wheeler and the Army of the Tennessee. Neale Publishing Company. p. 209. ISBN 9780722280065. As far as the eye reached, white-top wagons, drawn each by six handsomely harnessed mules, trailed along the narrow road. As the way pushed up the mountain, far away, the white-tops slowly ascended with it.
    2. Templeton, Henry (1934). J. Monaghan (ed.). "A Pioneer of the Eastern and Western Slopes". The Colorado Magazine. Vol. 12–13. State Historical and Natural History Society of Colorado. p. 229. Retrieved January 2, 2023. With a captain elected by popular vote, the wagon train pulled away from civilization. At night the lumbering whitetops were drawn into a circle, a night herder grazed the oxen on nearby hills and each emigrant started his cooking fire by the side of his wagon.
    3. Noble, Glenn (1959). Flashes from the Story of Colorful Old Brownville. Brownville, Nebraska: Nebraska Historical Society. p. 8. Trains of from twenty to sixty wagons were observed heading out over the prairie […] watching a fleet of whitetops undulate across the prairie slopes.
    4. Kalinak, Kathryn (2012). Music in the Western: Notes From the Frontier. Routledge. p. 41. ISBN 9781136620577. Oh, the white-tops are a-rollin', rollin', the big wheels keep on turnin' ('Song of the Wagonmaster').
  4. ^ Barton, William Eleazar (1900). The Prairie Schooner: A Story of the Black Hawk War. Boston: W. A. Wilde Company. p. 15. A 'prairie schooner' was what the settlers called such a wagon.
  5. ^ "The Wagon - Learn about Covered Wagons used on the Oregon/California National Trail". Retrieved 2021-11-03.
  6. ^ Stewart, George R. (1962). "The Prairie Schooner Got Them There". American Heritage Magazine. 13 (2).
  7. ^ "The Prairie Schooner Got Them There | AMERICAN HERITAGE". Retrieved 2021-05-18.
  8. ^ Unruh, pp. 107-08.
  9. ^ "Cole Land Transportation Museum - Cole Museum". December 18, 2014.

Bibliography Edit

External links Edit