I’ve had a number of inquiries recently about the Uncle Sam Sled come into the Farmington Historical Society, I think, because the sled was in Farmington, on loan from the NH Farm Museum for a recent local festival. The day of the festival I had many people come into the museum to ask more about the sled.
When was it built? Why was it built? Who built it? What was it made of? How fast was it? Was it really the fastest sled in the world? Where is it now? How did it get there? Generally that’s what people want to know.
These are all great questions. Most are answered by this short excerpt from, Transportation In And About Farmington by Lisa Mausol, as created for the NH Department of Transportation, in July 2017
“The most unusual transportation story in Farmington history involves the use of Main Street not by horses or automobiles but by a sled known as “Uncle Sam”. Designed by local resident Hervey Pearl, and constructed in 1894, the three-section sled weighed 1,500 pounds and was 77 feet long. The sled was constructed at B.F. Perkins carriage factory of steel and thick ash planks painted blue with gold striping. Pearl (1862-1945), a house painter by trade, lived at 48 Central Street. He reportedly had the sled built to win a wager that he could coast a certain distance. The double runner sled had the unchallenged reputation of being the largest and fastest such sled in the country. ” Main Street Coasting on the “Greatest Sled on Earth” Transportation In And About Farmington by Lisa Mausol NH Department of Transportation, July 2017
That is hardly the whole story. The Uncle Sam sled has a long history, but instead of writing yet another narrative, I’m going to assemble for you the pieces that were written about this marvelous part of Farmington’s history, starting with the a Farmington News article written in 1899, a later piece written in 1973, and finally two articles written by John Nolan for the Rochester Times in 2010.
The earliest information we have about the sled is from a piece in the Farmington News in 1894, but that piece only mentions the sled in passing; it is not helpful in learning about the sled or what it would come to be.
The Farmington News article written in 1899 not only presents many early details, but also gives the reader a sense of how proud Farmington was of the sled and the reputation it was building. It was featured in newspapers across the nation and made tours far, far from Farmington.
Take a look at 1899 piece in the online Museum of Farmington History: https://farmingtonnhhistory.omeka.net/items/show/572
Read pages 17 and 18 of the Transportation In And About Farmington by Lisa Mausol https://farmingtonnhhistory.omeka.net/items/show/202
The 1973 article from the Farmington News, written by Niki Pszonosky, provides a wealth of information about how the sled was constructed, how it was used, how it was operated, who owned it over time, and many of the problems associated with the sled. It also has several terrific photos, one to the left, is of the Uncle Sam sled in front of the Richard’s Block on Main Street in Farmington. That space is now occupied by Farmington House of Pizza and parking areas.
Read 1973 article from the Farmington News written by Niki Pszonosky, “Uncle Sam Comes Home” https://farmingtonnhhistory.omeka.net/files/show/917
The last two narratives I want to talk about were written by John Nolan for the Fosters/ Rochester Times. They incorporate many details from the earlier articles in the post and are blended with personal accounts of Uncle Sam history from Farmington amateur historian and collector, Roger Belanger. Those two articles are also significant as they detail who owned the sled and where it was in the last half of the 20th Century and early portion of the 21st Century.
Read Once famous Farmington sled ‘Uncle Sam’ slides into oblivion:
Read Uncle Sam sled donated to Farm Museum:https://www.fosters.com/article/20100527/GJNEWS04/705279815
If you visit the Museum of Farmington History you won’t be able to see the Uncle Sam Sled, as it has a home at the NH Farm Museum now, but you can see the much smaller Lone Star sled, pictured above.
The Lone Star sled was built, in the 1880’s, by B. F. Perkins for Leon Hayes, of East Grove Street, in Farmington. At the height of use the Lone Star sled carried twenty people, often, all the way from the reservoir on the Main Street Hill through the Main Street square, on to South Main Street by the Cochecho River. The sled was acquired by James E. Thayer in 1920. It was last used in 1930.
As a closing point I’ll provide you with one last link to a 2010 post written by well known NH humorist, storyteller, and author, Rebecca Rule, about the Uncle Sam sled.
Read “That’s Some Sled” by Rebecca Rule: https://islandportpress.typepad.com/travelswithbecky/2010/11/thats-some-sled.html
I hope these varied sources answer all your questions about the Uncle Sam sled. Keep sending in the inquiries!
Kyle Leach, Curator
Farmington Historical Society
Museum of Farmington History
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