In 1853 in Hangtown a friend offered newcomer Johnnie Studebaker a job making wheelbarrows, which were in great demand. Studebaker’s first wheelbarrow was huge and cumbersome. The miners laughed at it. “I’m a wagon maker, not a wheelbarrow builder,“ he said, defending his awkward creation. But he went on making barrows. The second one was better and the third one was good. Finally, his wheelbarrows “stood up” and became famous. With waiting lists for his many orders, he became known as “Wheelbarrow John.” But by 1858 he had had enough of wheelbarrows. He wanted to make wagons, so he took his $8,000 in savings and returned to South Bend, Indiana, where he established a firm that built wagons for westward-bound pioneers and eventually became the Studebaker car company.

Today, to commemorate the Studebaker success story, strong, otherwise sane young men and women push loaded wheelbarrows around a messy obstacle course each year in a series of races at the El Dorado County Fair in Placerville, formerly Hangtown. And we think the gold miners were crazy!

(Below) Each year at the El Dorado County Fair, contestants in the John Studebaker Wheelbarrow Race drag wheelbarrows through a chaotic obstacle course.
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