Old Wooden Dolly with Iron Wheels

saintroadNovember 11, 2009

Hello All!

Just got back from an antique shopping adventure in NC & GA

Found this great solid antique wooden dolly with iron wheels. It is in great overall shape and while I have been able to find some similar models through searching nothing exactly the same (especially with the lateral metal extensions in front of the wheels)

This dolly also has a stamp metal plate with the numbers 425443 on the back of one of the rungs.

If anyone can help provide insight as to the origin, manufacturer, timeframe and/or ID of the plate number, please let me know. Thanks so much!!!

See photos here:


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Sorry....don't know anything ...but it's a great piece!

    Bookmark   November 11, 2009 at 9:42PM
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Now, where have I seen that before? it looks like a standard dolly used in warehouses, stores, grain elevators, and machine shops. Maybe this was used at a train station. The all metal wheels and all wood frame mark this as old. I am not sure when semi-pnuematic tires came into use on dollies. Find a date for this and your collectible would be that old or older. I'm thinking 1920.

    Bookmark   November 12, 2009 at 12:40AM
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Yep, I was thinking at least 1910-1920, maybe older.

Couldn't find anything about this unit as it was the last item left in a consignment antique market. It was marked to sell and I snatched it up the second I saw it due to its age, character & condition.

I have seen a few older examples of dollys, but most either are 100% cast-iron or the ones with wooden and iron like this one do not have the tapered wooden rungs, large iron wheels, nor the extensions front of the wheels, and certainly did not have a stamped metal plate with the number.

Thanks for the info so far, if anyone can point me in the direction to get further info/research, please advise.

All the best,

    Bookmark   November 12, 2009 at 7:41AM
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Hand Trucks of that type were used in warehouses and loading docks which handled heavy and bulky items. The metal wheels held up for long periods under those heavy loads and did not shred or come off the rims as solid rubber of the time would. Wooden wheels would have split and shattered under the loads. The metal strips in front of the wheels prevented the load from touching the wheels and acting as a brake, preventing or, making it harder to move the load. The shape of the truck is, you could say, ergonomically designed so it would not take much effort to scoop and lift the load to move it. For example, you would see these in breweries for moving barrels. You would also see them at train stations for loading and unloading freight. Steel mills, loading docks where heavy freight was moved, etc.

That particular one looks like it wasn't used often or, for very heavy objects. Even with steel wheels, heavy loads would take their toll on the wheels as well as bend, chip and wear the skid plate at the bottom. This could have been used in a grainery, train station, whistle shop, local machine shop, cannery or even a local general store or hardware store. It could also be used in a factory to move production efforts from one point to another. It's in great shape and would certainly date it pre-WWII judging the "font" if you will, of the stamped letters. During WWII and thereafter, the serifs were not used as often to save effort and metals for the war effort. It could have been made anywhere from the mid-1800's through the 1930's. That one was used inside or the wood would have been much more deteriorated and the metal, especially the tag, would have been rusted badly.

Personally, I would research the area (maybe within a 100 mile area)where you bought it to see what is or, was in the area that might have used one of these. Many local breweries, canneries, mills of various sorts have come and gone. That's not to say the dealer didn't buy it somewhere else, but it is a start. Many times when I buy something like that, I ask where it may have come from. They usually know what estate sale, closing sale etc. they obtained it from. It's almost like trying to research a family tree to track some of the origins of stuff but it can get very interesting.

    Bookmark   November 12, 2009 at 7:57AM
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Thanks for the great info and analysis. I am going to contact the store in Livonia, GA to determine if they can still reach the seller. (It was bought only last weekend)

From there, I might get lucky with the history or maybe it will remain a mystery. :)

All the best,

    Bookmark   November 12, 2009 at 8:24AM
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Your find has my interest. Would you mind, should you find out anything about it, posting some followup info?

    Bookmark   November 12, 2009 at 6:11PM
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Not at all, I would certainly appreciate it. I bought it from a antique store in Livonia, GA just off I-85. Tried to go back through the store to determine the consignment seller, but no luck as of yet.

I would greatly appreciate it!!! :)

    Bookmark   November 14, 2009 at 12:00PM
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The type of hand truck made for barrels had a cradle-shape to the back. A flat-backed type (like this one) would not be good for barrels, as they would tend to roll off to the sides. To this day, special curved-back models are specially made for barrel-carrying.

    Bookmark   November 14, 2009 at 1:17PM
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I hate to be the one to bust your bubble, but from April 1966 to July 1973 I was a 64770 Warehouse Management Specialist in the United States Air Force and that type of dolly was in common use for heavy loads (exceeding 600lbs)and they were still stock listed in the 1973 GSA supply catalog.

    Bookmark   November 15, 2009 at 12:01AM
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would you agree with winslam about the numbers having serifs? Did the dollies you used have them or were they the more block numerals?

    Bookmark   November 15, 2009 at 7:05PM
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In civilian life the style of letter font may prove to be some indication of age, but for government applications that would not always hold true. The government is very careful to insure that they do not endorse any manufacturers product to the exclusion of another, therefore they write the specifications to include not only the overall design and type of materials used to construct the product, but the also include the type of finish, whether it is to be painted, varnished, or plain metal. In turn, once the government creates the specifications they put it out to bid to civilian manufacturers with the understanding that the product must conform solely to the government specs. In most cases the the only identifying marks allowed would be a tag which has the Milspec number or the Federal Stock Number and the nomenclature of the item. In some instances the specifications are so complete that they would define exactly what information could be put on the tag, I.E. FSN (Federal Stock Number) and Nomenclature and it may state specifically the size of tag, type of material the tag is to be made of, such as a metal tag, lettering stenciled or printed on the item, size of the lettering, type font for the lettering and the exact position where the tag is to be placed. In the case of an item such as the hand truck in question, the original specifications may have been written back during the civil war, but given that it is of such a good design, requiring no modifications, a manufacturer may be obligated to produce it today to the same specs.

To give you some idea of how critical the government is on specifications, once while stationed on a B-52 bomber base I was assigned duty as the receiving inspector for the munitions unit. We received two railroad car loads of belted 50cal. machine gun ammunition which was to packed in metal canisters, two to a pack in wooden crates, and labeling on the crates was to be stenciled black paint. When we inspected the shipment, the ammunition was correct, packed in the metal canisters two to a crate as specified but, the crates were stenciled with blue paint instead of black paint. We held the shipment for ten days pending a ruling and were told we had to ship it back to the manufacture for repacking. The assumption was that if they fudged on one spec, they may have fudged on others so the product did not meet government specs.

    Bookmark   November 16, 2009 at 3:01AM
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This is definitely not the case and this dolly is certainly not from the mid 70s. Anyone who saw this piece in person could attest the age by simply evaluating the construction, fasteners & wear. I got info on this piece from the seller. It was purchased from an estate sale from a supervisor from an old mill in Livonia, GA that closed in the mid 1930s, the dolly was used since the very early 1900s. Seller kept in his barn until 3 weeks ago when he passed away & items were sold to by his neighbor at the sale.

I sadly cannot mirror your optimal experience with our US Government and its strict adhesion to ethics & servitude. The government wasn't as concerned with those in the field. Deployed for 5 tours in the forward infantry, we didn't usually complain about the stenciling on the sling drops or newer & less available JPAS systems.

We were happy with every single bit of supplies that we could safely locate. Too bad they are busy sending back ammo due to inaccurate nomeclature marks while I had to command many a unit to ration their firepower.

Always the case though, beancounters never make good soldiers. :)

    Bookmark   November 16, 2009 at 4:30PM
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We have a wooden dolly that is a lot like yours. It has a metal plate on the inside of the left handle that says:
Hamilton Truck
Hamilton Caster & Manufacturing Co.
Hamilton, Ohio
I don't know if this is helpful or not, but I hope so.

    Bookmark   November 18, 2009 at 8:29PM
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I have one almost identical. It is an antique Railroad Hand Truck. Mine is from 1884 and has "Fairbanks" stamped on the side. Hope this helps!

    Bookmark   December 7, 2009 at 11:30PM
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