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Horse Drawn Vehicles

What do these photos tell you about how merchants delivered their goods?

Water Wagon In Central City

This is a water wagon. The men on the wagon delivered water to people's houses. The photo was taken in Central City.

Water Wagon In Central City

Photo: Denver Public Library, Western History Collection

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Why did Central City need a water wagon? During its first twenty years, Central City did not have a public water system. There were no underground pipes delivering water to people’s homes. People relied on water wagons for their drinking water.

Their Own Words

"Except in the National Hotel and store buildings there was very little plumbing in town. Bathrooms were few and residents had to buy water by the bucket. The water wagon would come around once a day. People would fill their water barrel in the kitchen, paying five cents or so a bucket. The Saturday-night bath was usually taken in the kitchen in a washtub with water that was heated in a reservoir on the back of the kitchen stove."

Source: William W. Wardell, "Cripple Creek Memories," Colorado Magazine, 37 (1960): 30.

Basalt Supply Company Wagon

The wagon in this photo is a delivery wagon. The words Basalt Supply Co. are written on its side.

Basalt Supply Company Wagon

Photo: Denver Public Library, Western History Collection

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Merchants used light wagons like this one to delivery goods to customers. Few of the miners rode horses or had wagons of their own. It was expensive to keep and feed a horse. They ordered supplies at a store and had them delivered to their house.

Their Own Words

“The warehouse stood beside the railway tracks and was large enough to hold a number of carloads of groceries of all kinds, as well as hay and grain. There was a large stable in the back which accommodated several saddle horses and the horses used on the order wagon and the delivery wagons. Few residences had telephones and it was necessary for a man to go around town and take orders by using a horse and buggy, the orders to be filled later in the store and delivered by wagon.”

Source: William W. Wardell, “Memories of Aspen, Colorado,” Colorado Magazine, 30 (January 1958): 116.

Delivery Wagons In Silver Plume

This photo was taken in Silver Plume, Colorado. It shows a freight wagon and team of horses in from of a store. The signs on the window say Roberts Brothers, Groceries, Hardware, Miners' Supplies.

Delivery Wagon In Silver Plume

Photo: Denver Public Library, Western History Collection

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Merchants like the Roberts brothers ordered groceries and hardware from supply towns down on the plains. These supplies were delivered in heavy freight wagons. The merchants made a profit by selling the goods for more than they paid for them. Most mining town stores were very profitable businesses.

Their Own Words

"About this time I met a boy from Del Norte who offered to sell me his team, wagon and harness for $200, and as I had been saving my money and had the cash, I took his offer. The very next day I found four passengers for Del Norte at $20 apiece, and from then on I put in several years taking freight or passengers from Alamosa to Del Norte and Silverton."                                                           "Sometimes, if I only had a couple of passengers for Silverton, I would put in a couple of cases of eggs and a box of butter of maybe a sack of cabbage and a sack of potatoes. Eggs cost thirty-five cents a dozen at this time and brought $1.10 in Silverton; butter cost thirty-five cents a pound and brought $1.50; and cabbage and potatoes were a cent a pound in Alamosa and sold for ten cents a pound in Silverton.
"I was just a kid of course, but into the ten years from 1879 until I settled in Alamosa in 1889, I crowded a lifetime of adventure and experience."

Source: Robert Born (1934), CWA Interview Doc. 8/349, Colorado Historical Society.

Hay Sled In Telluride

This photo was taken in 1892 in the town of Telluride. The horses are pulling sleds filled with bales of hay. The sign on the front of the store says HAY, GRAIN, AND FEED.

Hay Sled In Telluride

Photo: Colorado Historical Society

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Merchants and mine operators who owned horses, burros, and mules needed hay to feed them during the winter. They bought the hay from feed stores like the one in this photo. The sleds in this photo are delivering a new supply of hay to the feed store.

Their Own Words

“Well, they used to use the so-called hayracks. They put runners on the hayracks in wintertime, and people came to town on runners. There were also so-called cutters, which were smaller conveyances, usually one-horse, to carry two or four people, probably; there was a lighter rig. Of course, there was always horseback, and there were wagons of various kinds,, and buggies, and the so-called trap that the people in the backseat couldn’t get out until the people in the front seat got out. It was largely horse conveyance in the wintertime.”

Source: Virginia Shepard quote in Julie Jones-Eddy, ed. Homesteading Women: An Oral History of Colorado, 1890-1950 (New York: Twayne, 1992): 77-78.