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Thursday, January 16, 2014

The Centennial Wagon

Centennial Wagon Southwestern Exposition and Livestock Show

On the banks of Marine Creek, Fort Worth held their first Stock Show in March 1896. That following October, they conducted a second show to coincide with the National Livestock Exchange Convention meeting. The opening ceremonies kicked off on October 12, 1896 with the first Stock Show Parade. Much has change and grown through the years becoming one of the most respected Stock Show and Rodeo's in the world.  To commemorate the centennial in 1996, W.R. "Bob" Watt, Jr who was President and General Manager of the Stock Show wanted to add something special.  A way to share thanks to the many contributors who have over the years supported the Southwestern Exposition and Livestock Show.

The Stock Show was Bob's life.  A native of Fort Worth, he grew up at the stock show. His father was the President of the Show from 1946 until his death in 1977. After Bob graduated from college receiving a Bachelor of Science degree in Animal Husbandry from Oklahoma A & M, now known as Oklahoma State University, he began working the show. While his father
W.R. "Bob" Watt, Jr
remained President of the show, the younger Bob became Secretary and General Manager in 1973.  He assumed the office of President and General Manager in 1978 learning everything about operating a successful show from his father as he followed in his dad's foot steps.

To commemorate the centennial celebration, Bob knew he needed something very special. Something that would reflect on all those supporters who through the years help make Fort Worth the Cowtown it is today marketing Rodeo at its best. That's when Bob contacted Kevin Baker of Heritage Woodcarving  with the task.  After some initial ideas, Kevin was commission to carve a special wagon to commemorate the centennial.

Kevin, who founded Heritage Woodcarving, knew this would not be an easy endeavor.  Kevin has produced some of the most phenomenal architectural elements crafting sophisticated mantles, staircases, ornate wall panels and furniture.  Today, with over 39 years of experience, he took the opportunity to study wood design in Rome, Paris and London returning to Texas with the skills of the intricate European art as he mastered complex cuts where Heritage Wood Carving prides itself  on extraordinary designs.

Starting with photos taken from Exchange Street, home to the Fort Worth Stockyards, Kevin began with photographs of the many long time businesses which have sponsored and supported the stock show. As
Kevin Baker
Kevin drafted many s
ketches from the photos, his ideas soon came together as if unlocking the cryptex of the Da Vinci Code.  Soon he had a 3D design of what best represent the centennial, Texas and the Southwestern Exposition and Livestock Show.  

This one item that seem to best display the west, traced towards the horse drawn wagon.  It moved early pioneers across the plains, it carried needed supplies as teamsters moved freight and provided escort to the early soldiers as they protected the new frontier. Even the cowboys driving their herd found the chuck wagon as home on the range.  Like the Stock Show and Rodeo, the wagon truly is an exceptional piece of history.  Deciding a wagon could billboard the many businesses, his next step was to locate a wagon to start with.

Deciding to use the running gear of a Civil War Ammunition Wagon located in an old Fort in Wyoming, Kevin brought the piece to his shop where he began to completely dismantle each piece before restoration. The wheels were sent out to an Amish farm to be fully refurbished.   Using the finest oak and walnut woods, Kevin began crafting his talent carving the side boards. Using his CNC machine to rough cut the designs on the boarding, each piece and area would be finished by hand.  The wagon carriage was built getting new bolsters which would soon house the wagon box.   Hand forging all the iron works to assemble the side boards, flooring, bolsters and box,  the wagon began to take shape. 

After an arduous six months of hand crafting the wagon boards going far from fundamental woodwork, Kevin's master piece of bolection accents and master jointing came to completion. Standing 8 feet tall at the wagon's highest point, 12 feet long and nearly 6 feet wide, the 2,300 pound creation was ready to represent the grand centennial.  

The Centennial Wagon was on exhibit commemorating the 1996 Southwestern Exposition and Livestock Show before being donated to the National Cowgirl Museum and Hall of Fame located at 1720 Gendy Street, Fort Worth, Texas where the wagon is currently displayed. A true master piece, created and built by master woodcarver Kevin Baker of Weatherford, Texas.  Bob Watt Jr retired as President of the Fort Worth Stock Show and Rodeo in 2010 with over 40 years of dedicated service. 

Centennial Wagon Southwestern Exposition and Livestock Show

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  1. Cowboy: Can you tell me anything about" Yellowstone Auto Cooler Kitchenette" I just piked one up, but can't fine any info on it. Please E-mail me at Thanks. Ron Clanton

  2. The YellowStone Auto Cooler Kitchenette was made by RENCH and Broz Manufacturing in San Diego, California from around 1917 to around 1924. They were design to use on the side board of Ford Model-T cars. Just like a chuck box, the auto cooler kitchenette had the table which folds down and storage binds for flour, sugar and those things we use from the kitchen for camping. It also had a built in ice chest. Other companies also built these under different names such as Tourist Supply Company, Inc of Los Angeles called the Tourist Kitchenette. City folks seeked getting out to the great outdoors like their ancestors who pioneered west. Keep in mind during the days of the Model T Ford, there was no interests. Few national or state parks, but folks pulled over along rivers and enjoyed camping then as they often do today.

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