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  • Jacob D Van Fossen, Sr (1756 - 1845)
    wheelwright His Revolutionary War records are on file in the National Archives in Washington, D.C., file number R 10, 865.
  • Thomas Tolman, of Dorchester (bef.1608 - 1690)
    Not the child of Thomas Tolman, Esq. & Temperance Dolman Pioneer of Dorchester From Savage: Tolman, THOMAS, Dorchester 1636, freem. 13 May 1640, by w. Sarah had Hannah, b. 27 July 1642; but pro...
  • Added by: Patrick L. Cazneau on 21 Mar 2008
    Josiah Belcher (c.1631 - 1683)
    Josiah Belcher Birth: 1631 Boston Suffolk County Massachusetts, USA Death: Apr. 3, 1683 Boston Suffolk CountyMassachusetts, USA 2. Josiah4 Belcher (Gregory1), born in 1631, was a wheelwrigh...
  • John McDonough (1837 - d.)
  • John McCallum (1829 - d.)

WHEELWRIGHT / WRIGHT - maker or repairer of wagon wheels

"Not long after the invention of a round disc that could be rolled while upright, which we now call a ‘wheel,’ a new craft was started: wheelwright. He was a guy who could make a rounder wheel than other people. He was so good at it that other people paid him to make wheels for them. Skip forward to 17th Century England and there were still wrights making wheels for other people. The wheels were made of wood, mostly, and were no longer solid, but had spokes between the rim and the hub. Of course a few wheelwrights were among the first settlers in the American colonies. The life people hoped to build after they migrated could not have been built without wheels. Wheels significantly reduced the labor needed to transport cargo and people."

"NOTE—It is likely the first use of a wheel to reduce labor was a wheelbarrow. It had a single wheel underneath a storage platform or box. Then came the cart, with two wheels, and then the wagon, with four wheels. Colonial wheelwrights made wheels for all three."

"It is doubtful the first wheelwrights in Jamestown and Plymouth had a shop, even if only a small one. Too much labor would have been required to cut down trees, dig a sawpit and erect a cutting trestle, and have two men cut out planks. The wrights surely worked in the open air and were subject to wind and rain. Eventually, though, the work was moved indoors, which made it easier and likely sped up production."

"The wooden wheels made by colonial wrights had to be strong and durable. The roads on which their products were used were no more than dirt lanes with uneven ground, ruts, mounds, rocks, and weak joints and constructions would have soon failed. Wheels were also put on carts and wagons that were pushed or pulled across farm fields, or to market."

"In the 17th Century, most wheelwrights were also blacksmiths. Both crafts (and repairs, a side income) were worked in the same village shop. As time went on and populations grew, more wheels were needed than the blacksmith could produce. This led to bigger shops and prosperity for some men, particularly in towns. It also led to specialization. Whereas some wheelwrights made wheelbarrows, carts, and wagons, and put their own wheels on them, other men made only wheels or only one type of wagon and the wheels for it."

"Wheelwrights were not an early success story in the American colonies. It was not something poor men took up and became rich after years of hard work. It cost too much money to get into, perhaps as much as £200 ($6,000) for the tools, alone (more than three years’ wages for a laborer). The tools and equipment were inherited by a son or bought on credit by an apprentice taking over a business. There was no other way. However, it was a good business to own, if a workman was good at his craft. There were few slow times with nothing to do, it paid well because of the volume, it allowed a man to hire employees (which upped his social status), and it was regarded as honest work. A wheelwright was unlikely to be as highly thought of as a minister or town mayor, but he was shown respect."