Restored Studebaker wagon readied for 4,310-mile journey
By Steve Erickson, Republic Staff Writer
Letcher -- A 1910 Studebaker wagon, which sits fully loaded on Doug Hansen's property and ready to make a trip across the American prairie, will soon be crated up for a 4,310-mile trip to a Denmark museum.
Hansen, who has been a wheelwright for 17 years, and other employees spent about 200 hours outfitting the wagon with what Danish immigrants needed to survive on the American plains in the 1880's.
The restoration project began with a call about a year ago from a Danish immigrant in Washington, acting as a liaison between Hansen and the museum in Aalborg, Denmark. The museum, located in a forested national park, was built in 1911 in recognition of the Danish American immigrants. The wagon will be loaded in a crate on Tuesday and trucked to the east coast, where it will be shipped to the museum by July 4, Hansen said.
The wagon is outfitted with native furs, which were used to trade on the trail or mended into garments, a shotgun mounted by the driver's side, and numerous pots, pans and lanterns making up the trim.
Both the wagon and the hardware were drawn from the (local) area. The wagon was found near Dimock (SD), while the shotgun and other antiques were bought at area auctions, donated or pawned from other wagons that were used for spare parts.
Hansen and other employees drew from practical experience and photgraphs on what an 1880 wagon outfitted for a trip across the prairie should look like.
Jim Patrick, who spent most of the time with Hansen restoring the wagon, said it was challenging to think of antiques as present-day necessities.
"It was kind of fun to take antiques and think of them as something being used at the time," he said.
There are also many personal touches involved, including hand-forged hooks for the lanterns, and bringing out the former barely noticeable Studebaker emblems, which are painted on the sides and the back of the wagon. Matching paint also took a concoction of oil-based paints and linseed oil. It was then sanded to match (the look of) a prairie-worn wagon.
"I really enjoy seeing a wagon go (to the client) after spending a lot of time and energy on it," Patrick said. "You sort of envy the people that have the time, energy and money to do this."