The term was originally used to describe a person who made wheels for wagons and
carriages.  Of course their trade overlapped with the wainwright and even the blacksmith as well.
The name was originally English in origin and I had thought that it's usage had died out in the States before
the Civil War.  Then I found this piece of paper. (Click the image to see the full size view)

Ledger page from a Wheelright operating around 1900.  From my personal collection.
 

It is a page from a ledger book starting around 1900, kept by a wheelright working in Berks County PA.
(Friedensburg is at the very northern end of the county.)  As you can see he did business in all
forms of harness parts and wagon repairs as well as wheel repairs.

The tools of a true wheelwright include the lathe for turning hubs,
the hub reamer (a very large tapered reamer usually with a hook on
the bottom for a weight), tire bending tools, and of course the "spoke shave".

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