Antique wooden wheelbarrows add country ambiance to gardens and sunrooms. These simple garden tools have been used for thousands of years for a variety of duties and are sought after today by collectors and decorators.
History of the Wheelbarrow
The word wheelbarrow comes from the two words, wheel and barrow. Barrow comes from an Old English word, bearwe, a device that was used for carrying loads.
It is uncertain where the wheelbarrow was first invented, although some historians feel that a Greek inventory of building materials for 408-407 and 407-406 B.C. list what sounds like a wheelbarrow among the other tools. While there is no mention of the Greeks using wheelbarrows in farming, it is believed that they were used on construction sites.
The Romans adapted many things from the Greeks and it should not be surprising that a one-wheeled vehicle is mentioned in documents dating from the 4th century AD.
Meanwhile in China, wheelbarrows were being used as early as the first century B.C. to transport people from place to place. The Chinese credit the invention to Prime Minister Zhuge Liang (181-234 AD) even though their own writings and illustrations show wheel barrows in use much earlier. Liang used wheelbarrows to transport military supplies and wounded soldiers. These Chinese wheelbarrows could transport six passengers at once.
Although there was no mention of the wheelbarrow in Europe after Roman times, it resurfaced around the beginning of the 1200s. The wheelbarrows pictured in various drawings and paintings typically have one wheel near the front, similar to wheelbarrows today.
Like most tools, wheelbarrows were brought to the United States by the immigrants and were a big part of building the country. During the Gold Rush some men put all of their belongings in wheelbarrows and attempted to push them across the country to California.
J.M. Studebaker became wealthy by making and selling wheelbarrows. He eventually used his funds to found the Studebaker Corporation, one of the first automobile production companies.
Wheelbarrows have not changed much over the years. They are still an important tool used by gardeners, construction workers, and others who need to move heavy objects easily from one place to another.
Examples of Wooden Wheelbarrows
Because antique wheelbarrows were often made by individual craftsmen there are hundreds of different designs. Here are some examples:
You can find antique wooden wheelbarrows at thrift shops, flea markets, garage sales, and antique stores locally, especially if you live near farming communities. You can also find these unique antiques on eBay and other online venues.
Using Antique Wooden Wheelbarrows
Decorating with antique wooden wheelbarrows, like farm wagons, is a great way to add a country touch to any garden. The wheelbarrows can even be used inside the house in a casual sunroom if you like. Some ideas for using your wheelbarrow, if you are lucky enough to have one, are:
- Filled with flowers near the rest of the garden, a wooden wheelbarrow adds old-fashioned, country charm to any yard.
- Use a small wooden wheelbarrow near the fireplace to hold wood inside the house.
- Fill the wheelbarrow with potted house plants to brighten up a sunroom.
- Use as a holder for your seasonal decorations outside your home. Fill will pumpkins for autumn, flowers for spring, etc.
- Use the wheelbarrow for holding books and magazines, or even old quilts in the den.
There are many ways to use these charming tools. You are limited only by your imagination.
Protecting Your Investment
Once you have found the wheelbarrow you want, you should protect it as much as possible from sun and rain. You can do this by using a clear varnish on it to seal out moisture and the harmful rays from the sun. If you are going to be keeping the wheelbarrow on a porch or in a garden room this will not be necessary.
Enjoy decorating with your wheelbarrow. It is sure to be a conversation starter.