Images of various Artifacts of the Month's

April 2022

Artifact of the Month

Conestoga Wagon

Named for the Conestoga Valley in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, the Conestoga wagon was first used in the 1750s to transport produce to Philadelphia. An excellent design, it was used throughout the country for the next 100 years.

The distinctive curved cargo bed of the Conestoga was designed to keep cargo from shifting rather than for flotation as some sources claim. The Conestoga was not cheap. Just before the Revolution, the wagon cost $250 and the horses and harness another $1,200. This is the equivalent cost for a present day tractor-trailer.

The Conestoga wagon was ruggedly built to withstand the constant jostling over rutted roads and rocky terrain. Large wheels allowed it to cross deep streams while keeping the cargo dry. Pulled by teams of 4 to 7 horses, the wagon bed could haul as much as 5 tons of cargo but this was seldom done. The need to carry grain or fodder for the horses on long trips reduced the cargo capacity to 3 or 4 tons.

The Conestoga was strictly for carrying cargo and there was no seat for the Wagoner, who either rode the lead horse, a separate horse or walked alongside. Out of all the major vehicles on display at the museum, this one is the only reproduction.