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vintage wagon odometer used by westward wagon trains & teamsters

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    Posted 8 months ago

    (290 items)

    Did you ever wonder how the wagon trains knew how far it was to the next water hole? Did you ever wonder how an early teamster measured the distance that he traveled via horse drawn freight wagon, so he could charge by the mile?
    They used a wagon odometer like this.
    This odometer is in remarkable condition for it's age. The stitching of the case is is like new as is the leather case itself. the only thing that is missing from the case is the leather strap used to tie it to the wagon wheel. That's right, the wagon teamster tied the entire case to the wagon wheel and the driver knew how far the wagon traveled in one revolution, so, he could easily figure out how far he traveled from the start of his trip, to his designation
    Inside the leather case is a tin metal drum to hold the internal brass calculating device. This device is held tight while the pendulum like center rotates around, ...... once with each rotation of the wagon wheel. As it rotates, the device continually counts the revolutions that the wheels rotates.
    By knowing the amount of wheel rotations that are in a mile, the teamster can accurately determine how many miles that the wagon traveled, and he could charge the client accordingly.
    If used by a wagon train going west, the wagon master could determine how close they were to the next water hole.
    This odometer must not have been used hardly at all, even the brass internal device looks as it was made last week.

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    1. dav2no1 dav2no1, 8 months ago
      Wow. That's a very interesting piece! Thanks for sharing, never seen one.

      I would imagine they had to have an idea how far they went, so they didn't kill their horses too.
    2. AnythingObscure AnythingObscure, 8 months ago
      FASCINATING showing of a FASCINATING item, hotairfan!! I certainly wouldn't have been able to guess what that beautiful little machine and its case were ifn's I ever ran across one -- THANKS FOR SHARING -- I just *love* the fun stuff we all learn about by hanging around CW!!!!! <applause><cheering>
    3. Congcu, 8 months ago
      Very nice piece of history. What is the name of the maker?
    4. hotairfan hotairfan, 8 months ago
      good question Congeu,
      I never even thought of who made it.
      It is signed "Lionel Corporation New York"
      not sure if that is the same Lionel Corp. that makes toy elect. trains
      and thanks everyone for your nice comments!
    5. Ms.CrystalShip Ms.CrystalShip, 8 months ago
      Since my ancestors came over from Missouri by wagon, and settled in See Canyon, California, I am wondering if they had one of these? This is a fascinating post! And yes, we learn things everyday on here with wonderful posters who are willing to share info and history, not just describing the obvious.
      I’m with “anything..”, such a great piece of western history!!!
    6. kwqd kwqd, 8 months ago
      Interesting, Eileen! After the Civil War my great grandfather and a fellow named Webster Ringo had a business outfitting wagon trains in Kansas City, MO. Maybe they outfitted your ancestor's wagon! Some of my ancestors went to California from Missouri in the 1840s, too, so maybe your ancestors were already in California by the 1860s.. I think I've told the story about the band of Indians who rode into the camp of the earlier group with a string of horses and tried to buy my ancestor's daughters...
    7. hotairfan hotairfan, 8 months ago
      Please, let me assume that your ancestors didn't sell their daughters..... although, that was a pretty good price that they were offering (just kidding).
      thanks for the input.... You should get in touch with Eileen and go over what each of you know of your ancestors, maybe they went West in the same wagon train. That would be awesome to hear......
    8. Congcu, 8 months ago
      More than likely was designed for use in a survey, mapping or military application. Modern artillery (WW one) at the time needed precision registration info to guarantee accuracy. Lionel started in 1900 and made other precision mechanisms such as taffrail log, etc.
      The wagon train era was pretty much over by 1880 when the railroads took over.
    9. hotairfan hotairfan, 8 months ago
      Hi Congcu,
      If you Google "Wagon Wheel Odometer" You can see an advertising blog from Worthpoint where they describe and show reference to a wagon odometer similar to the one that I posted.
      Worthpoint states that they were used in the 1870's, when surveyors were running all over the West.
      As I mentioned two sentences ago, the Worthpoint's blog. show a photo of a similar wagon odometer.
      Now.... arrow to the right of the existing photo by Worthington for 3 arrow moves and a photo of a frontiersman pulling a two wheeled cart with an odometer, the likeness of the one in my post..... it is dated, at the bottom of the photo... 1872
    10. hotairfan hotairfan, 8 months ago
      Hi Concu,
      I forgot to mention a famous Newspaper Writer who wrote for a New York paper in 1872 when he made the comment "Go West Young Man".
      His name was Horace Greely.

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