8 Things You Didn't Know About Real-Life Covered Wagons

By | May 17, 2019

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Conestoga Wagon. Source: (Photo by Wolfgang Kaehler/LightRocket via Getty Images)

Every movie and television show about the old west and the pioneer days includes covered wagons. You know covered wagons, you were probably forced to make them in elementary school, or, even worse, to play "Oregon Trail" at some point, of which you remember very little other than inadvertently learning what dysentery was. These canvas-topped, horse-drawn wagons have become a symbol of the pioneering spirit of Americans during the westward expansion of the 1800s. From the Louisiana Purchase to the California gold rush to the Homestead Act, the 19th century was a vast migration of people from the crowded East Coast cities to the untamed wilderness of the Great Plains and the western states. Before the introduction of the railroad, the covered wagon was the favorite mode of transportation for the pioneers. But covered wagons weren’t all they were cracked up to be. Let’s look at what you didn’t know about covered wagons. 

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Source: (hansenwheel.com)

There were at Least three main kinds of covered wagons

Although innovative pioneer families made their own versions of covered wagons using ox carts or peddler’s carts, there were three main types of covered wagons that were used to transport settlers across the country. The Prairie Schooner, the classic covered wagon, was designed to carry the family’s belongings over great distances. It was called the Prairie Schooner because the white canvas covers looked like the sails of schooner ships from a distance. The Conestoga wagon was much larger and had to be pulled by a team of six horses. It was too big and heavy to be used for cross country trips, so it was primarily used for short distances. The chuck wagon was a much smaller covered wagon that served as a mobile kitchen for large groups of travelers heading west