A new exhibition at Desert Caballeros Western Museum reveals the history of the covered wagon through art.
During the expansion westward of the United States, the covered wagon played an essential role by providing shelter and transportation for settlers as they forged into the great unknown. December 8 through March 10, Desert Caballeros Western Museum in Wickenburg, Arizona, will celebrate the chuck wagon, Conestogas, freight wagons and stagecoaches in the show Wagons West. On display will be 25 works of art as well as artifacts from rarely seen private collections that provide a glimpse into these bygone days.
“Wickenburg has a rich history of the wagon crossroads and it was quite appropriate for us to commemorate that through the exhibition,” says Dan Finley, executive director of the museum. He adds there will be works by both contemporary and historic artists, with most of the pieces coming from private lenders including Myron and Betsy Deibel, and Tom and Betty Watt.
“The wagon was integral to the expansion of the American West,” Finely says. “Between it and the horse, the American West could simply not have been explored the way it was. We want to tell the story of the importance of the wagon in the expansion of the West.”
Among the pieces from the museum’s collection will be Cow Camp at Sundown by late Cowboy Artists of America member Charlie Dye; Olaf C. Seltzer’s Stagecoach to Bannack; and a piece by Olaf Wieghorst titled Trail West. In describing Wieghorst’s piece, Finley shares, “It really captures the conditions—both the physical and human conditions—that people faced on treks across the West, and really how the wagons were pivotal for survival on those trips.”
Other artists with works in the show include Edward Borein, Earle Heikka, George Phippen, Bill Nebeker, Benjamin Wu, Sherry Blanchard Stuart, Sheila Cottrell and Krystii Melaine. Among the artifacts on view will be an 1800s chuck wagon from the Deibel collection, a mud wagon in the museum collection that was used on the Ehrenberg-wickenburg run in the 1880s, and items such as Dutch ovens and bedrolls.
On the day Wagons West opens, the museum will be hosting one of its family days, with wagon-themed activities taking place from noon to 2 p.m.
1800s era chuck wagon. Collection of Myron and Betsy Deibel.
Olaf Wieghorst (1899-1988), Trail West, oil on linen, 24 x 30”. Desert Caballeros Western Museum Collection.
Charlie Dye (1906-1972), Cow Camp at Sundown, oil on canvas, 30 x 40”. Desert Caballeros Western Museum Collection. Image © Terrence Moore.
Olaf C. Seltzer (1877-1957), Stagecoach to Bannack, watercolor on paper, 12 x 17”. Desert Caballeros Museum Collection.