Circus troops were among the first people to use wagons for homes in the early 1800s. As they traveled from town to town, venue to venue, these large wagons were pulled by teams of horses.

By the mid-1800s, wagons had become much smaller and lighter and were pulled by a single horse. The Romani people (commonly called “gypsies” in English) in Europe began living in and traveling by wagon in 1850. Prior to this, they walked, carrying their possessions in carts and camped in tents. The Romani name for these wagons is Vardo. Vardos were typically commissioned by newly married couples and took between 6 and 12 months to build. The Reading style, seen here, is one of the six types of wagons used by the Romani. The name Dunton, wagon builders of Reading, England, became synonymous with this style of wagon they created. Some of the wagon’s unique features include the gargoyle heads at the four corners of the roof that are connected to the gutter systems, removable stairs for easier access to the living compartment, a queen size bed in the very rear of the wagon with a bed below for the children and a queenie wood stove for heating, as meals were typically cooked over an open fire.

Purchased in celebration of the dedication of the Museum’s Founding Director Emeritus, Charles Chiarchiaro

Accession no. 2013P001.01

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