Wagon Making in Southern Arizona

by James E. Sherman and Edward F. Ronstadt, with quotations from the memoirs of Fred Ronstadt, pioneer wagon maker

Reprinted from the Tucson Corral of the Westerners
The Smoke Signal Number 31, Spring 1975

Footnotes

1 Today the site is located at the northeast corner of Congress and Granada Avenue at the site of the Federal building.

2 Today the site of the wagon shop is occupied by the northeast corner of the Community Center exhibition hall.

3 In 1886, Dalton and Vasquez dissolved their partnership in the wagon making business. Dalton became involved in farming and mining ventures and Adolfo Vasquez leased the shop to Fred Ronstadt for $30 a month.

4 This wagon was constantly in use until 1940.

5 In 1903, the Tucson Street Railway Company contracted with Ronstadt's Carriage Works to manufacture the wood work and construct a mule-drawn car to be used in the Tucson street car system.

Acknowledgements The authors would like to acknowledge the following for helping to make this article possible: The Arizona Historical Society for their assistance in providing many of the pictures and other materials used; George W. Chambers for encouragement in the writing of this article, as well as furnishing copies of interviews with Fred Ronstadt and other data; George Eckhart for his many years of inspiration and encouragement which led to the writing of this document; Gilbert and William Ronstadt for assistance in the correcting of the manuscript and furnishing of some of the pictures used; Mrs. Fred Ronstadt and Henry A. Dalton for furnishing data about their father, Winnall A. Dalton; Don Bufkin for preparing the map accompanying this article; Lloyd C. Vath for advice and help with some of the photographs used; Miss Hallie Hauck for the proofreading; and Mary Catherine Ronstadt and Barbara Sherman, our wives, for their patience and understanding.

SELECTED REFERENCES

  1. Arizona Historical Society. Misc. Collections.
  2. Arizona Weekly Citizen. Arizoniana. The Journal of Arizona History. Vol. III, No. 2. Arizona Pioneers Historical Society, 1962.
  3. Eggenhofer, Nick. Wagons, Mules and Men. New York: Hastings House, 1961. G. & D. Cook & Co. Illustrated Catalogue of Carriages and Special Business Advertiser. 1860. Reprinted by Dover Publications, Inc., New York, 1970.
  4. Haney, John and Cirino G. G. Scavone. "Cars Stop Here, A Brief History of Street Railways in Tucson, Arizona."
  5. The Smoke Signal. No. 23. The Tucson Corral of Westerners, Spring, 1971.
  6. Hilzinger, J. George, Treasure Land 1897. Tucson: Arizona Advancement Company, 1897.
  7. Hinton, Richard J. The Handbook to Arizona. Tucson: Arizona Silhouettes, 1954, republished from 1878 edition.
  8. Lewis, Oscar. The Big Four. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1941.
  9. Morris, William. (ed). The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Co., 1969.
  10. Myrick, David F. New Mexico's Railroads. Golden, Colo.; Colorado Railroad Museum, 1970.
  11. Myrick, David F. Pioneer Arizona Railroads. Golden, Colo.: Colorado Railroad Museum, 1970.
  12. Ronstadt, Fred. "A Few Lines About How Wagons Were Made." Paper given at The Southwesterns Club, Tucson, Ariz. March 4, 1952.
  13. Ronstadt, Fred. "The Lost Art of Carriage and Wagon Making," unpublished manuscript, December 1951.
  14. Ronstadt, Fred. "Personal Memoirs," unpublished manuscript.
  15. Schellie, Don. Vast Domain of Blood. Los Angeles: Westernlore Press, 1968.
  16. Walker, Henry Pickering. The Wagonmasters. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1966. 

Glossary of Terms

Axle: A supported shaft of wood or iron upon which a wheel revolves.
Box Bearing: The portion of the wheel bearing that fits into the wheel hub and rotates around the axle skein.
Boxing the Hub: The procedure of setting the box bearing inside the hub.
Cabriolet: A two-wheel, one-horse carriage with two seats and a folding top.
Concord: A style of stagecoach made famous by the Abbot and Downing Company of Concord, New Hampshire.
Draft: The pull of a load.
Felloes: Curved sections of a rim made of select white oak and connected by the spokes to the hub. Used for heavy wagon wheels.
Hub: The center portion of a wheel, made of select oak or birch, attached to the spokes.
Hub Mortise: A rectangular hole in the wheel hub in which the spoke tenons are fitted.
Landau: A four-wheel dosed carriage with facing front and back passenger seats and a roof made in two sections for lowering or detachment.
Reach: A pole, usually of white oak, connecting the rear axle of a wagon to the front axle.
Rim: The circular outer frame of a wheel, bent from select hickory and connected by the spokes to the hub. Used for buggy or carriage wheels.
Rough Stuff: A wwood filler which has a consistency of heavy cream and dries hard.
Running Gear: The structural parts of a wagon including the wheels, axles and turning apparatus that support the wagon box.
Sarven Patent Wheel: A wagon wheel with a specially designed hub reinforced with iron flanges which give the hub greater strength than the conventional wooden hub.
Skein: The portion of the wheel bearing that slips onto the axle spindle. The wheel and box bearing rotate around the skein.
Spindle: The tapered end of the axle which fits into a skein.
Spoke: One of the rods or braces made of hickory that connects the hub to the wheel rim.
Spoke Tenons: The shaped end of the spoke that is inserted into the hub mortise.
Surrey: A horse-drawn, four-wheel pleasure vehicle having two seats.
Tire: The outer wearing surface of a wagon wheel made of a continuous band of iron.

Contributors

James E. Sherman is a native of Wisconsin where he attended the Wisconsin School of Mines and received a B.S. degree in Mining Engineering. In 1961, his fascination for the west led him to move to Tucson where he completed a M.S. in Mining Engineering at the University of Arizona. In addition to numerous technical and non-technical publications he has written, Mr. Sherman collaborated with his wife, Barbara, in writing and photographing the books, Ghost Towns of Arizona, and Ghost Towns and Mining Camps of New Mexico, both published by University of Oklahoma Press. Currently Mr. Sherman is a faculty member at Pima College where he teaches courses in Engineering and Southwest Ghost Towns.

Edward F. Ronstadt is a native Arizonan where he attended the University of Arizona and received his A.B. in Political Science and Spanish. He has been active in various civic organizations, particularly the Boy Scout Movement, where he served as a Scoutmaster for ten years and was President of the local Boy Scout Council. His hobbies include history, archaeology, and photography. He is a part owner of and Secretary-Treasurer and Manager of the F. Ronstadt Hardware Company, a pioneer Tucson business concern, founded by his father, the late Fred Ronstadt, in 1888.

1975 OFFICERS OF TUCSON CORRAL

CHARLES W. POLZER, S.J. --------------------------------------------------------------------- Sheriff
BERNARD FONTANA ------------------------------------------------------------------- Deputy Sheriff
CLAIR STROUP ---------------------------------------------------------- Keeper of Marks and Brands
JOHN MCCUTCHIN and GEORGE HERRICK --------------------------------------------- Wranglers
JOHN F. MAROHN ---------------------------------------------------------------- Keeper of the Chips
TONY ZIEHLER ---------------------------------------------------------------------- Roundup Foreman
ALECK PUCILOWSKI ------------------------------------------------------------------------ Historian
OTIS H. CHIDESTER -------------------------------------------------------------- Editor of Publications

EDITORIAL BOARD

Editor: Otis H. Chidester,Associates: Gordon C. Baldwin, Don Bufkin, Charles W. Polzer, S.J; James Serven, and Henry "Pic" Walker.

All issues are $1.50 per copy, except # 27 which is $2.00. Information concerning Brand Books and Smoke Signals may be obtained by writing to the editor at 1937 E. Blacklidge Drive, Tucson, Arizona 85719. Special prices for dealers and libraries on request.

1975 by the Tucson Corral of the Westerners, Inc.

Footnotes | Acknowledgements | Selected References | Glossary of Terms |
Contributors
| 1975 Officers of Tucson Corral | Editorial Board