Covered wagon

Covered wagon
A covered wagon replica at the High Desert Museum

The covered wagon, also known as a Prairie schooner, is an icon of the American Old West.

Although covered wagons were commonly used for shorter moves within the United States, in the mid-nineteenth century thousands of Americans took them across the Great Plains to Oregon and California. Overland immigrants typically used farm wagons, fitting them with five or six wooden bows that arched from side to side across the wagon bed, then stretching canvas or some other sturdy cloth over the bows, creating the cylindrical cover. Sometimes, these wagons would be as long as 15 feet.

Covered wagons were primarily used to transport goods. Small children, the elderly, and the sick or injured rode in them, but since the wagons had no suspension and the roads were rough, many people preferred to walk, unless they had horses to ride.

While covered wagons traveling short distances on good roads could be drawn by horses, those crossing the plains were usually drawn by a team of two or more pairs of oxen. These were driven by a teamster or drover, who walked at the left side of the team and directed the oxen with verbal commands and whipcracks. Mules were also used; they were harnessed and driven by someone sitting in the wagon seat holding the reins.

One covered wagon generally represented five people. A well-to-do family might have two or three wagons, or a group of single men traveling together might share a wagon. While crossing the plains, emigrants banded together to form wagon trains for mutual assistance and occasionally defense. The covered wagons and wagon trains were retired late before the era of cars and planes.

Prairie schooner is a fanciful name for the covered wagon; the white canvas covers of the wagons crossing the prairies reminded some writers of the sails of a ship at sea.[1]

See also


External links

Media related to Covered wagons at Wikimedia Commons

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Look at other dictionaries:

  • covered wagon — covered wagons N COUNT A covered wagon is a wagon that has an arched canvas roof and is pulled by horses. Covered wagons were used by the early American settlers as they travelled across the country …   English dictionary

  • covered wagon — ☆ covered wagon n. a large wagon with an arched cover of canvas, used by American pioneers …   English World dictionary

  • covered wagon — noun a large wagon with broad wheels and an arched canvas top; used by the United States pioneers to cross the prairies in the 19th century (Freq. 1) • Syn: ↑Conestoga wagon, ↑Conestoga, ↑prairie wagon, ↑prairie schooner • Hypernyms: ↑wagon, ↑ …   Useful english dictionary

  • covered wagon — UK / US noun [countable] Word forms covered wagon : singular covered wagon plural covered wagons a vehicle pulled by horses that has a curved top like a tent, used in the past by people travelling across North America …   English dictionary

  • covered wagon — A vehicle well known in history and romantic legends. The vehicle by which the pioneers traveled west. A large wagon having a canvas cover. A covered wagon traveling from place to place, in which prostitution is carried on, may constitute a house …   Ballentine's law dictionary

  • Covered Wagon Days — Directed by George Sherman Produced by Harry Grey …   Wikipedia

  • covered wagon — 1. a large wagon with a high, bonnetlike canvas top, esp. such a wagon used by pioneers to transport themselves and their possessions across the North American plains during the westward migrations in the 19th century. 2. Brit. Railroads. a… …   Universalium

  • covered wagon — cov′ered wag′on n. trs a large wagon with a high, bonnetlike canvas top, esp. such a wagon used by pioneers to cross the North American plains in the 19th century • Etymology: 1735–45, amer …   From formal English to slang

  • covered wagon — noun Date: 1719 a wagon with a canvas top supported by bowed strips of wood or metal …   New Collegiate Dictionary

  • covered wagon — /kʌvəd ˈwægən/ (say kuvuhd waguhn) noun Chiefly US a large wagon with a canvas top …  

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