Monday, November 24, 2014


You probably know that the pioneers who crossed the country on the Oregon Trail and all those other Trails traveled in covered wagons.  But do you know what brand of wagon many of them used?  I'll bet you don't, and I didn't know either until one day when Mom came home from antiquing with a framed ad from a wagon company named Schuttler.

Mom was surprised and excited to find such a thing, except it was expensive, so she had to ask the seller to lower the price.  In the end, she got it down from something like $225 to $175.  Unfortunately, it was really hard for Mom to take a picture of the ad without getting a bunch of reflections on the glass, so that's why it looks kind of cattywampus in the photo.

Anyway, the ad shows a dramatic scene of some people crossing a river with their wagon on a ferry. There is a woman standing bravely on the ferry, holding her baby in one hand.  With her other hand, she holds onto the Shuttler wagon.  This shows how safe and dependable the wagons are, even when you are in a dangerous situation.

Peter Schuttler, who started the Schuttler Wagon Company, was born on December 22, 1812, in Wachenheim, Germany.  He came to the U.S. in 1834, at the age of 22.  He worked for a while in Sandusky, OH, as a wainwright, which is what you call a person who makes wagons.  In 1843, Mr. Schuttler moved to Chicago.  He set up his own shop and started making wagons for the people who were heading west to California, Oregon, and Utah.  He also made wagons to use on farms, in mines, and for hauling freight.

Schuttler ad, 1895

By the middle of the 1850s, the Schuttler wagon company had about 100 employees, and they made 1,800 wagons a year.  Each wagon sold for around $75.  In 1863, Mr. Schuttler was one of only three people in Chicago who paid taxes on incomes of more than $100,000.  During the Civil War,  Schuttler was not chosen as a military contractor, but there were lots of civilians who needed wagons, so business was still good.

Peter Schuttler Farm Wagon
Peter Schuttler Catalog, 1879

Mr. Schuttler built a fancy mansion on a Chicago city block bordered by Aberdeen, Adams, Morgan, and Monroe Streets.  The house had many artifacts and other items brought from Germany, where Mr. Schuttler was born.  According to rumors, the house cost almost $500,000 to build, which was a whole lot of money back in those days.  For a long time, the Schuttler mansion was thought to be the finest in Chicago.  If it was still there, you could maybe go see it, but sadly, it was torn down in 1911.

Schuttler Mansion, 1863-1911
Mr. Schuttler died in 1865.  After that, his son, Peter Schuttler II took over as head of the company.  Lots of very high-quality wagons were still being made.  By 1880, there were about 300 workers, and they produced over $400,000 worth of wagons every year.

Now I will tell you an interesting bit of information that doesn't exactly have to do with wagons:  Peter Schuttler II married Wilhelmina Anheuser.  Her sister, Lilly, married a man named Adolphus Busch.  The father of these two women, along with Lilly's husband, founded the Anheuser Busch brewing company.  Which just goes to show that it's a small world, after all!

Pre-1870 Schuttler running gear

The Great Fire of Chicago in 1871 burned down the Shuttler Wagon factory.  Plans for a new, bigger factory were made right away, and it was finished by the next spring.  After that, a hub and spoke factory was added, which took up two whole blocks.  The total area of the wagon works was more than 10 acres, and there were over 400 employees.  Twelve thousand wagons were produced each year, with all the parts made from raw material such as lumber and iron.

Schuttler Factory, 1879

By 1910, the company was known as Schuttler & Hotz Manufacturers.  Peter Schuttler III was in charge, and 300 men were still employed at the factory.  But after a while, everybody started driving cars instead of using wagons, so by the middle of the 1920s, the company had to shut down.

There are still some Schuttler wagons around, and also some other brands.  You can have one of your very own if you don't mind spending anywhere from $4,000 to $37,000.  There is a catalog here.  I thought it might be fun for us to have an old wagon to put in our front yard, but Mom said that if she puts anything in the front yard, it will be a tree.


  1. Does your mom still have the Schuttler picture? Is she interested in selling it?

    1. Yes, she still has it. It is hanging on the dining room wall right at this very minute. She might want to sell it but it it is very, very heavy, so unless you live close to Kansas City and could pick it up in person, it would not be a good thing to ship it through the mail.