Text by Rick Asam with Anson Taber
Images from the Aroostook County Historical and Art Museum
The Taber ball-bearing drop-axle farm wagon was an innovative improvement on the traditional drop-axle or "jigger" wagon design.
A drop-axle wagon has "U" shaped front and rear axles with the wagon bed below the height of the wheel hubs. Traditional wagons have straight axles with the wagon bed riding above the axles and, therefore, above the wheel hubs.
The drop-axle wagon has a lower center of gravity, giving the wagon more stability and making it easier for horses to pull. The low wagon bed also makes it easier to load barrels of potatoes or other heavy freight.
While a low freight bed could be achieved by using smaller wheels, and thereby a lower axle, the large wheels afforded by the drop axle were preferred for transport over rough roads and farm fields.
Taber's patent improved the drop axle by strengthening it with a truss-bar to increase resistance to canting and by using a link-brace to attach the wheel gear to the wagon bed.
Patented in 1903, the Taber Wagon came into popular use on New England farms at a time when production of farm equipment was shifting from the local blacksmith's shop to factories and the source of power on the farm was shifting from the horse to the internal combustion engine.
Production of the Taber wagon ceased with the death of its inventor in 1912 as farm tractors were coming into wider use.
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