The Fort Collins Museum of Discover is a wonderful facility that we have just recently explored. We enjoyed our first day there so much, in fact, that my parents decided to gift us with a family pass for the coming year. My daughter and I were thrilled, as there is much yet to explore.
One of the displays that caught my eye was this historic wagon.
Neat piece, isn't it?
As I looked closer, I began to realize that there are names and dates scribbled all over the side panels. The genealogist in me got real excited, real quick.
I did not have a great deal of time that day to ask around, but I did email the archives this week to ask about the signatures, and if they had ever been transcribed. I received the following response back from the curator at the museum:
I received your inquiry... "about signatures on the Museum's Frank Miller Mud Wagon. What an interesting notion, to follow up on the names signed on the wagon! I don't know of, and was unable to find any record of anyone transcribing them. The wagon underwent a fairly intensive conservation/restoration in 1995, and we have the report here at the Museum. The report mentions that the conservation work retained the penciled signatures, but doesn't describe them. It included several photos, but none that specifically focus on the signatures.
From what I can tell, the signatures date from two periods. In the days before WWII, Frank Miller entertained a steady stream of guests, including many Western performers and celebrities, at his guest ranch and exotic animal zoo, Trail's End. Several sources mention that many of these visitors signed the body of the wagon. Will Rogers is said to have added his signature in pencil at this time (though I haven't found it yet). Miller gave the wagon to the City of Fort Collins in 1948 as a memorial to his son, who had died in Germany during WWII. The wagon was displayed downtown in an open-windowed brick building and many passerby added their signatures to it then. In 1978 the wagon, deteriorating from exposure to the weather in this semi-enclosed shelter, was moved into storage at the Fort Collins Museum. The wagon came back out on exhibit in 1990 in the Museum's gallery.
So the signatures would date from about 1917 to the mid-1940s, and from 1948 to 1978."
There you have it. No transcription currently exists. A project for the local genealogical society, perhaps?
I have to share one last photograph, which is a close up of the section above one of the rear wheels. The date is 1878: