Joe Jones of Western Range Catering takes time to perform routine maintenance on his Peter Shuttler Chuckwagon. Wagon wheels require to be lubricated in order to roll with less friction and longer wear of axle wheel spindles. Since Joe normally trailers his wagon to catering events and chuckwagon cooking competitions, greasing the wheels is not as frequent as those who use horse drawn vehicles often.
The wagon wheel, consider one of the six simpleless machines every created, spins on an axle allowing heavy loads to be easily moved or transported. Evidenced of early wagons was found during an excavation near southern Poland finding a Bronocise Pot with art work of a four wheel wagon dating near 3500 BC. The first wheels date to 4000 BC, found simultaneously in what is central Europe and the Mesopotamia area which is the land between the Euphrates and Syria, the first known spoke wheels came about during the second millennium. The wheeled Chariot would spread the development of wheels at an increased rate reaching both Scandinavia and China by 1200 BC. By 500 BC during the Iron Age, the classic spoke wheel with hub and iron rims would become the standard into the 20th century.
Through the years, the wagon would take on many shapes with as many different usages. Each, requiring maintenance ensuring the smooth spin of the wheel on the axles which they were mounted too. Lubricates were applied to reduce friction transferring heat. Greasing kept parts separated while protecting against wear and corrosion.
On a covered wagon, early pioneers carried the Grease bucket hung off the rear axle but since the chuckwagons often have a boot box, easy access to the grease required hanging either off the front axle or the side braces of the wagon bed.
Early axle grease was Tallow, made from animal fat rendered from Beef or Mutton. At room temperature, Tallow remains as a solid substance that could be stored for long periods of time. Due to not having refrigeration to prevent decomposing, tallow was stored in various air tight containers to prevent oxidation.
Early cattle drives of the American Cowboy learned that Longhorn cattle could be easily move long distance without much lost of weight. To provide demand for needed hides, lubrication and meat, millions of Texas Longhorns were moved to northern markets. While the Longhorn cattle were once numerous, they nearly became extinct towards the end of the 19th century. Immune to Cattle Tick Fever, many markets in fear of infecting other cattle breeds would outlaw or quarantine the Longhorn. Additionally, the demand for fatty beef both for consumption along with making needed tallow plunge the leaner Longhorn which was poor for production Tallow.
In 1927, J. Frank Dobie with help of other conservationist and historians would convince Congress to assist saving this true American Breed. Two U.S. Forrest Rangers would inspect and find only 20 cows and two bulls of pure bloodline that would be moved to Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge near Cache, Oklahoma. Today, again, the Longhorn thieves for it's quality lean beef, though remains poor for the manufacturing of tallow.
Some manufactures of horse drawn carriages and wagons found it profitable to sell their own brand of axle grease. This was true of Mitchell Wagon Company which contracted to have their label on a tin container's filled with tallow.
In 1839, Nicholas Schaeffer founded Schaeffer Manufacturing Company, which has manufactured lubricants in America longer than any other company. Lubricants were not Schaeffer's primary line of business at first. Production of axle grease grew out of soap and candle making. But by the mid-1800s, the wagons wheels of many travelers to the California gold fields were greased with Schaeffer's product. Eventually, the company became a full-fledged lubricant manufacturer and marketer.
|Grease Bucket Rafter TS Chuckwagon|
Today, owners seek antique grease buckets for restored wagons. Sandra Julian of Rafter TS caters and competes with her chuckwagon. She located the mid 1850's grease bucket which she is proud to tell you about the history of the aged wooden container that stills shows signs of early use with tar and tallow.
Those who perhaps do not locate old grease buckets through auctions or antique shops turn to either building one carving a log out as did early farmers and ranchers, or to reproductions. Hansen Wheel and Wagon Shop manufactures to authentic detail an early design grease bucket along with providing actual grease for additional cost.
|Grease Bucket by Hansen Wheel and Wagon Shop|
|American Civil War Iron Grease Bucket for Cannon Axles|
|Our Grease Bucket at Cowboys and Chuckwagon Cooking|