Thursday, February 28, 2008

Wagon Boxes

I've been asked about distinctive artifacts from carriage and wagon shops, such as the one operated by the Atzerodt brothers behind the Chimney House. I found this photograph of 'wagon boxes' that I recovered from a wagon shop site in central New York.

Although called wagon boxes, these are wheel bearings that were inserted into wooden hubs. The axle, well greased, turned inside the boxes. The flanges readily observable on the top and bottom objects, and to a lesser degree on the left-middle specimen, prevented the box from turning inside the hub. The greased axle and box arrangement allowed for smooth turning without damaging the wooden hub.

Wagon boxes were typically cast iron and they typically were produced by American iron furnaces that also turned out cast iron pans, kettles, and other household and agricultural products. Because they were cast rather than forged, these boxes or bearings were difficult to recycle. When broken, the wheelwright or vehicle maker generally discarded them. When broken wagon boxes are found on the site of a carriage or wagon shop, it is a pretty good indication that the shop took in repair work. We will be looking for these, and other vehicle parts, when we complete the survey behind Stagg Hall and Chimney House.


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