Wagon wheels have driven the spread of civilization. From the war chariots of the countries around the Mediterranean to the movement of European settlers across the United States, wheels have increased the mobility of various cultures throughout the world. Sometimes they are old and rusty, sometimes made of chunks of log, sometimes they are beautifully crafted and painted in brilliant colors, but they all help people move from one place to another. It is no accident that wheels are often referred to as "Wheels of Fortune" and not just in reference to the television show. If you pick up a Tarot deck, fortune is depicted as a wheel that can either uplift or grind the querent beneath its tread.
Wagon Wheels as Symbols of the American Wild West
When creating decorations, the wooden iron-rimmed wheels that were the underpinnings of Conestoga wagons, chuck wagons and just plain farm wagons are the most often displayed as decoration. Symbolic of a brief twenty-year culture that has inspired imaginations ever since, these wagon wheels invoke images of wagon train masters shouting, “Wagons, HO!” They also invoke images of broken axels, lone wheels lying in the grass of Kansas or on the salt plains of Utah, mute testimonials to the frailty of human endeavor, and to human short-sightedness.
Wheels in Europe and Asia
Wheels enabled the nomads of the steppes to take their homes with them. They were the underpinnings for the Romany, those roaming tribes that moved goods, provided wandering skills to the pre-motorized societies of Europe. Those wheels were often brightly decorated, but no less fraught with inspiration and tragedy.
Wheels in Modern Context
Modern technology has made nomads of us all, traveling from one job to another, always seeking a better life. Is it any wonder we refer to a new car or truck as our “new set of wheels”? Wagon wheel decorations are both a reminder and a promise of the ways that technology changes our world. Or sometimes they are just a nifty way to decorate in a specific style. Whether authentic antiques or wood, metal or plastic replicas, wheels are a symbol of mobility, both nostalgic and modern. Check out the selections of wagon wheel decorations that follow. Most of them are primarily reminiscent of the American westward expansion, but the tapestry is a reminder that beautiful wheels are not exclusively the property of the spread of Europeans across a country that seemed to them to be endless and unclaimed.
Wagon Wheel Wall Decoration