Cheyenne Frontier Days Old West Museum: Carriages to Cars

  • story by David M. Brown
  • posted on 03/2023
  • posted in: Great Garages

The Cheyenne Frontier Days Old West Museum comprises 160 horse-drawn vehicles and antique motor vehicles used for the pioneer Wyoming city’s Cheyenne Frontier Days parades every July.

The event was established in 1897 to bolster the local economy by celebrating the unique western experience of Cheyenne, explains Mike Kassel, associate director/curator of collections. The annual event celebrates the importance of the Transcontinental Railroad, the city’s role during the Indian Wars and its golden years as a major center of the 19th-century cattle boom. The first Union Pacific Railroad train reached Cheyenne on November 14, 1867.

“Organizers hoped to give visitors an experience of the authentic West that they had been reading about in dime novels and seeing in extravaganzas like Buffalo Bill Cody’s Wild West shows,” he says.


Combining hospitality, and the participation of Native Americans, the United States Army and cowboy talent from around the nation, the event became the celebration of the American West and the birthplace of modern rodeo, he adds. It acquired the moniker, “The Daddy of ’Em All,” and inspired other spectacles such as the Pendleton Round-Up, the Calgary Stampede, the Greeley Stampede and the Houston Rodeo.

When CFD’s Silver Anniversary occurred in 1922, the organizing committee thought that the parades that had originally greeted visitors needed to be more than the traditional “cowboys and Indians,” bands and dignitaries variety. They asked local rancher and businessman, Fred Boice, for a refresh. In turn, he asked his wife Margaret for help.

A creative thinker and a fierce organizer, she assembled a parade line-up that eventually became “The Evolution of Wyoming Road Transportation.” This included a Native-American woman on horseback pulling a travois, followed by cavalry soldiers, a prairie schooner pulled by oxen, a pack-train, one of the original Cheyenne-to-Deadwood Stage coaches that was still in the city, her family’s ranch cart and a sleek 1922 roadster from a contemporary dealership.


The new format display became popular. Four years later, Parades Chairman George F. Jones asked the Boices to recreate their previous incarnation of the parades as an ongoing element in the 1926 and all future parades. “A call went out for people to donate their carriages to the parade, many of which were moldering in carriage houses and barns across the city having been recently replaced by the ubiquitous fascination with the automobile,” Kassel explains.

“Almost immediately, carriages of all kinds began to be delivered to Frontier Park, and every year more carriages were added, by donation or purchase,” he says, adding that at first, the collection was kept under one of the local grandstands to weather the harsh winters.

Margaret Boice and her volunteers, first called the “Old Rigs Committee” and then the “W-Heels,” cleaned the carriages, organized the horses and drivers and rented period-appropriate costumes for the many hundreds of riders that would appear in each parade. A group of other volunteers, “The Wagon Doctors,” with backgrounds in fine carpentry, metalwork and detail painting, repaired and restored the vehicles.


The Museum Arrives

In 1977, the CFD Committee retired the 1950s-era Dance Hall Pavilion, reserving a small part as event headquarters. “The W-Heels and their supporters campaigned to have the rest turned into a museum dedicated to the community’s heritage, and more importantly, a place to shelter the best of the parade vehicles and make them available to the public year-round,” Kassel says.

The Cheyenne Frontier Days™ Old West Museum opened in 1978, and in 2022 the Marietta Dinneen Carriage Barn debuted at Frontier Park to store the vehicles against the weather.


Winter, late spring and the fall are the best times to visit the museum to see the carriages, Kassel says. These times alternate with various art shows, “Western Spirit,” from the beginning of March to mid-April, and the Cheyenne Frontier Days™ Western Art Show and Sale through July. While the vehicles aren’t in the museum during July, “If patrons are lucky enough to be visiting the museum during the last full week in July, they will have the opportunity to see 65 horse-drawn vehicles in one of the four parades held during the event,” he adds.

The collection superbly documents the horse-drawn carriages that eventually became the “horseless carriages.” “No one really knows the oldest vehicle in the collection,” Kassel says, “and there are examples of vehicles popular in the 1840s that can be seen on display. Few realized it at the time, but the arrival of the automobile portended the beginning of the CFD carriage collection as carriages and wagons were retired,” he says.

Let’s take a ride, by carriage, car or fire truck, to the museum, but don’t expect padded seats, GPS or bottom warmers.


The Carey Mail, circa 1885 — Manufactured by the renowned Abbott & Downing Carriage Company of Concord, New Hampshire, this vehicle is rare, with only three others known to exist. The coach was used on the CY Ranch near Casper, Wyoming, and was owned by Joseph Maul Carey, the territorial attorney general in 1868. He began ranching in the 1870s and became one of the state’s premier stockmen.

In addition, he represented the territory in the U.S. Congress during the 1880s and ran several businesses in Cheyenne. In 1890 he presented the case in the House of Representatives to make Wyoming the 44th state. When that succeeded, he became the state’s first senator. He is best known for facilitating the momentous Carey Land Act in 1894 which opened large tracts of the American west to irrigation and settlement.

This vehicle was used for hauling mail from the Meadow Post Office on Horse Creek and carrying passengers to and from the ranch. The Carey family lent the coach to Cheyenne Frontier Days, and it’s driven every year by his grandsons.


The Yellowstone Coaches, circa 1883 — The Abbott and Downing Company manufactured these for use transporting guests from Montana and Wyoming railheads into Yellowstone National Park and to take them on tours of the park’s wonders.

Originally used in 1886, the first nonmotorized vehicles were designed for six, nine or eleven passengers; the yellow livery was chosen by the Yellowstone National Park Transportation Company in 1896. The company switched to using motorized white buses in 1917. In 1928, George Jones, the CFD parades chairman, acquired four Yellowstone coaches, and they have been used in every parade since then.

Cheyenne or Bust car — A polyglot collection of Ford Model A’s, 1926–1929, this vehicle was created by Gerald Blackwell when his Oak Spokes club colleagues asked him for a parade car. It recalls the popularity of Cheyenne Frontier Days even during the worst of the Great Depression. Blackwell retired it in 2019.


The Boice “P.O. Ranch” Dog-Cart Phaeton, 1870 — In 1925, Margaret Boice used this wagon to represent road transportation for the ranching industry in her first Evolution of Wyoming Road Transportation parade. Known locally as the “Tea” Wagon, it was not a reference to what it was used for but rather the general shape of its design, Kassel explains.

Constructed by the Woods Brothers Co., New York, N.Y., the wagon was likely owned by Edgar Boice, Margaret’s father-in-law, when he was hired by the Arbuckle family as the manager of the P.O. Ranch north of Cheyenne.

Deadwood Stagecoach #68, 1885 — Kassel explains that coaches used for public transportation became known as stagecoaches because their journeys were accomplished by successive stages, or intervals. The term originated in Scotland in the mid-1600s.


•Stagecoaches and stage wagons were built in a variety of shapes and sizes; this is a six-passenger Celerity Wagon. It was used on the 300-mile Cheyenne-Black Hills Stage line, founded in 1876 to link the two areas and the gold mining camps of the Dakota Territory. At the peak of operation, the company offered daily departures from Cheyenne with arrival in Deadwood 50 hours later. The last stage left Cheyenne’s Inter-Ocean Hotel on February 19, 1887.

C. B. Irwin, a rancher and livestock agent for the Union Pacific and a great showman, acquired this coach from the stage line for use in his Wild West Show, which traveled extensively in the United States and Canada from 1912 to 1917.

It took part in the National Bicentennial Parade in Washington, D. C., where it paraded down Pennsylvania Avenue as part of the Wyoming contribution to the celebrations. “After many journeys, parades, celebrations and countless miles, the Deadwood Stage Coach was finally retired in 2010,” Kassel says.

Army Escort Wagon #130, circa 1865 — One of the oldest vehicles in the collection, this is one of a type developed shortly after the Civil War. Designed to carry up to 5,000 pounds of supplies, wagons like these were used at Camp Carlin, otherwise known as the Cheyenne Depot, from 1867 to 1884. Six mules pulled them from the depot to frontier forts and garrisons in Wyoming, Colorado, Utah, Nebraska and the Dakotas.

The U.S. Army used these wagons until the 1930s. Most likely, the event acquired the wagon in 1947 when nearby Fort Warren was transferred to the United States Air Force. In the 1970s, this wagon and three others were converted into air-conditioned “Howdy Wagons,” with a faux prairie schooner wooden top. A complete restoration returned it to the original frontier look.

Concord Western Mail Coach — About 12 years ago, the CFD Parades Committee considered retiring the six-passenger Deadwood Stage Coach #68, but what would the new parade flagship be?

Doug Hansen of the Hansen Wheel and Wagon Shop in Letcher, South Dakota, was asked to build a replica Concord western mail coach to replace it. He used the original plans for vehicles of this type created for the Wells Fargo Stage Line by Abbott and Downing Company from 1896, a time when the stage coach reached its apex, Kassel explains. “This vehicle has been in the CFD parades since 2010 and frequently travels to other communities to participate in holiday parades and sporting events,” he says.

1909 Maxwell-Briscoe — Jonathan Maxwell and Benjamin Briscoe manufactured this two-cylinder car; it’s one of 9,000 sold in the summer of 1909 and typical of the first types of automobiles that began appearing at Cheyenne Frontier Days™ in 1906, Kassel explains.

To get to Cheyenne, early drivers had to use old wagon or stage line roads. Many visitors had to follow the right-of-way for the Union Pacific Railroad and sometimes had to use railroad bridges to cross creeks, canyons and rivers. Kassel notes, wryly, “It was always handy to have a time-schedule on hand to anticipate when a train might need to use the bridge, too.”

A general admission of twelve dollars per guest is charged with variable discounts for seniors, students and the military. For more information on the museum, see For more about the area, visit