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Fondling, er, Foundling, er, Founding Dates

Updated: Apr 4

Independent research tells us when a gunleather company appeared, and then disappeared, in the form that we know about it. This is worth learning for collectors because the makers themselves were 'flexible' about their founding dates because if only once they made a holster then that day often is used as their 'since' date. Think about J.M. Bucheimer, whose 'Since 1884' is before John Maurice Bucheimer was even born; instead it was the founding year for his father's company called G.H. Buchheimer (two 'h's) that was not a gunleather company anway. Or even Tex Shoemaker on his kitchen table. I sure don't count my first holster as a founding date (1959) nor the day a decade later (1968) when I began building professionally (i.e., for money); but instead two years later when joining the industry via JB's Bianchi Holster in 1970.


Above, the rarely-seen Anderson "Pig Hunter" flap holster; this one from the estate of Andy's successor Victor Perez. Andy's holsters were not marked with his name, one of the ways to confirm that it's genuine.


ANDY ANDERSON: Andy was a very small maker whose Anderson Saddlery of 1946 is irrelevant to his gunleather founding date as Gunfighter Holsters, although we do have examples of holsters with that mark. It was in 1957 that he left Arkansas for Los Angeles to become an actor where, after working first for Ed Bohlin then for Arvo Ojala who poached him in 1958, and he started his own shop in 1959. He didn't mark his name on his California holsters! Strokes and Milt Sparks put Andy out of business in 1975 with his name thereafter appearing alongside Cobra's (NYC) in a licensing arrangement. He lived until 1991; his former apprentice Roy Baker had died the prior year.


ALFONSO PINEDA: Alfonso and Andy worked for Arvo, side by side, and Alfonso left after Arvo after Andy :-). That was 1959 and his company is still operating under son Omar; and for our purposes, is still the same operation making the same gunleather that Alfonso did. He was admitted to the US for permanent residency in 1957 as born in Nicaragua and naturalized in 1968. He died in California 1995, same year as Sparks and Nelson.


ARVO OJALA: Arvo left Seattle for Los Angeles in 1951 and started up his Hollywood Fast Draw Holster Co. in 1956. Andy reworked Arvo's set into the one we know today and then the fireworks began, with Arvo forced out of California into the Pacific NW in the very early '60s after which he returned late 1960s. For our purposes that was the end of Arvo although he continued to advertise. He lived until 2005 and one of his daughters is heir-apparent to the marque. A move early in the '60s caused the 'N. Hollywood' in his stamp to lose the 'N'.


FRANK AUDLEY: Francis Audley was a belt maker from Ireland and he filed his first holster patent in 1905 and was dead by 1916. Taken over by H.D. Folsom Arms when NYPD adopted the holster in 1922, the Folsom company continues to this day but is not in the gunleather business. Today we know the Audley patent holsters as being made by the likes of JayPee which is a trademark of Courtlandt Boot Jack Co. of NYC as successor to Audley. There is a genealogy all its own about the Parlante family and companies such as CBJ into the present day with an heir operating Cobra since the '70s ('Ay, that lovely dress', to paraphrase Eugene Cunningham describing Hicks-Hayward's 'rodeo pants' in the 1920s.)


ROY BAKER: Roy worked with Andy Anderson right after WWII but later was a metal worker until filing his only patent in 1971 from IL. It's my theory that Roy's holsters initially were made by Gallagher at Jackass with Rick being a rock band member and in the leather sandal business very late 1960s Chicago. Roy sold his company in 1978 and was attempting to start up again in the year of his death which was 1990. In the meantime it had been acquired by Strong Holster in 1986 which traded on the mark for a brief time.


BERNS-MARTIN: was formed by John Berns and 'Jack' Martin around 1930, with the joined name first appearing in 1932 courtesy of Elmer Keith who was their 'sponsor'. The operation became a corporation when it was sold 1963 to thereafter shift from Mississippi to Georgia in in the James Bond years (the marque prominently introduced in "Dr. No" of 1962). That lasted no longer than Jack Martin did and at his death in 1968 it was handed off to Blackie Collins the knife maker in 1971, and to John Bianchi in 1974 (the year of Berns' death); who did not ever make the Berns-Martin products. Today Berns-Martin is my own trademark but I also do not make the original B-M products and do not consider myself to be their successor in anything but owning the trademark for gunleather; referring to it as "Berns-Martin (Australia)".


BIANCHI HOLSTER CO.: the company you know today is a subsidiary of erstwhile partner then competitor Safariland (actually, the LEO conglomerate of that name). JB began making gunleather early but it was his forming Safari Ltd. with Neale Perkins as 'Safari Land" in 1964 that is the genesis of both companies; JB appeared as Bianchi Holster in 1966 after splitting with Neale and then sold his operation to venture capitalists in 1987. Arguably Bianchi continues as a gunleather company today but it is literally not the same company that JB owned/operated; instead it is a subsidiary for the conglomerate's gunleather (vs. Safariland's polymer products). JB still lives as does NP :-).


ED BOHLIN: was really a silversmith despite touting his early leatherwork. His gunleather was made by a crew of Hispanics as was all the gunleather of the makers in the late 20th century including Bianchi and Safariland and Shoemaker. He opened his Hollywood Novelty Leather Shop in 1922 but was a saddler with a specialty in silver-mountings on same. We've seen his gunleather on the likes of Roy Rogers and The Lone Ranger. His brief stint as Arvo's maker led to his losing a suit for unfair competition (not patent infringement) early 1960s and he is said to have lost interest in his business at that time. Today's Bohlin is a very different enterprise and his final press appearance was his death in 1980.


BRAUER BROS: were indeed brothers but in the shoe business followed by gunleather. Their gunleather is old but the company we knew in the late 20th century was incorporated in 1998 and dissolved by 2017 after Bob Downs died 2003. It's possible, even likely, that Brauer's earliest gunleather was made for them by Wyeth Hardware of Missouri, which saddlery specialised in private label gunleather.


A.W. BRILL: now this is a story worthy of an encyclopedia entry. The design of what we know as 'the Brill' was created in 1905 at Kluge Bros saddlery which company August Brill acquired in 1912; he was neither a saddler nor a holster maker. His product was made first by saddler Charles Kluge until an overlap with fellow saddler Newton Rabensburg in 1932. Charles died 1944 and Rabensburg lived until 1961; with Arno Brill, the son, dying 1968. On the evidence the Brill gunleather ceased manufacture when Rabensburg did vs. Arno who like his father August was not a saddler.


J.M. BUCHEIMER: has been known by many names beginning with predecessor G.H. Buchheimer founded 1884 whose gunleather was overshadowed by dog collars and the likes. The J.M. Bucheimer that we know of today was formed by John Maurice in 1942; so at the outset of WWII for America. At that time he dropped the 'double h' in the original name with Germans having become unpopular (!) to say the least (virtually all saddlers of the 19th and 20th centuries were Germans -- and Confederates). The company of that name was sold then bankrupted 1989 with its assets acquired by Strong Holster while disclaiming the saps (a huge liability). A subsidiary in name only was the Bucheimer-Clark brand that was the DBA (doing business as in California) name of Tandy Leather of TX; it had a somewhat different product line. The folks using these names today have no ongoing connections with the old companies with the J.M. Bucheimer Corporation being forfeited in 1991 and Bucheimer-Clark along with it.


CLARK HOLSTER: E.E Clark was a saddler and formed his gunleather company in 1919. Then and today we know his operation best for its spring belt and shoulder spring crossdraw holsters beginning in the 1930s with Dick Hoyt as his sales force. His death in 1948 led to his sons continuing on but forming Bucheimer-Clark company in 1959 with the sons of J.M. Bucheimer who had died in 1953; as the western subsidiary of J.M. Bucheimer. The sale of the latter to Tandy Corp of Texas led B-C to be dissolved as a separate corporation in 1970 when it became Tandy's DBA in California. We can think of Clark's successor as having been Bucheimer-Clark which then was dissolved with J.M. Bucheimer in 1989 with the latter's bankruptcy.


A series of Clark-marked gunleather items featuring Thompson Leathergoods' unique stagecoach mark ('T' in the door) are still a mystery; likely being either Ed or Earl Clark. It is tempting to draw a connection with the Clark "Coachella' mark and the stagecoach itself; Coachella Valley being just East in Riverside county where some of the Clarks lived at the end of their lives. On the one hand this seems a big stretch; on the other hand, there is the mark itself:


COLORADO SADDLERY: was formed by four former H.H. Heiser employees including Al "Kip" Kippen who had worked for Heiser since the 1920s; incorporated 1946 because Heiser had been sold to The Denver Dry Goods; an absolutely huge retailer of the times. CS's gunleather range became The Hunter Corp in 1952 with at least two of the remaining four staying on. Perhaps Hunter continues into the present day? Never a factor in holstory.


EL PASO SADDLERY: today's company was formed by Bobby McNellis who was not only a gun collector but his father ran a photography shop that counted Tom Threepersons as a client. The two men once owned a Tom Threepersons revolver. Events conspired to leave McNellis of a mind to build up a new holster company in the mid-70s from the suddenly available assets of S.D. Myres Co. but he didn't acquire the name; which instead was acquired by Easterner Frank LaCroix and then fellow Easterner David Duclos. McNellis 'looked around for a name' he stated and chose the expired El Paso Saddlery Co. name, and incorporated in 1978. It is unlikely you will ever handle a genuine EPS holster from the late 19th century but its predecessor saddler holsters are well represented in collections. Even a holster so-labelled as an original by Bobby McNellis is a 1976 article is unmarked and instead is by Wyeth Hardware of Missouri; many of these have survived:


ROYAL EUBANKS: was originally an upholsterer specializing in mattresses and even automobile furniture. He incorporated as a gunleather maker for WWII at which time only police and military could buy such; setting up shop in 1945. He sold to Pioneer Tent and Awning in 1949 and died reentering the biz in 1955 after his noncompete expired. There are several different marks incorporating the Pioneer and Eubanks names either separately or together. Pioneer still operating? I've lost track and I mention the marques only because many have survived and are collectibles as well made.


EVALUATORS LIMITED: was a company that sold on the likes of Berns-Martin to LEO and military agencies. It was incorporated 1951 and was not a maker; but Heiser and Berns-Martin holsters made with the Evaluators marks are collectibles made not much longer than HHH, B-M, and founder General Van Orden themselves did; which was late 1960s.


GALCO: is a foreshortened Gallagher Company (despite the legend, wink) created as The Original Jackass Leather Company, a leather sandal maker that was an offshoot of Rick Gallagher's 'The Trolls' hippie-era rock band. It's my theory that Rick got into the gunleather biz after making Roy Baker's 'pancake' holsters from the latter's nearby startup (both were Chicago area). Roy moved to Arkansas then Jackass became Galco in 1980 and moved to Arizona 1983. The operation continues today as the heir-apparent to the Bianchi Holster company in terms of its copies of the latter's designs and construction.


CHIC GAYLORD: had no apparent gunleather experience being setting up shop in 1953 after his shoulder holster of the same year. He was a creature of Broadway and lasted only until CIA operative (and Broadway denizen) Paris Theodore hired away Chic's man Bob Angell in 1967 to produce Paris' Seventrees Ltd range as a front (Paris' words) for his clandestine lethal weapons biz in support of the CIA. Chic's last press appearance was that year and he lived until 1992.


EMERSON GAYLORD: no relation to the NYC maker, this one was a big deal in the making of gunleather for the North during the Civil War. He lived until 1899 and refused to supply the South because he was a Republican. He purchased the leather division of Ames Co. in 1856 after being sole leather maker to Ames since 1844. The leather of North was tanned with the bark of the hemlock pine which, when the tanners allowed the pH of the tanned hides to fall below a certain level, then fell prey to what is called 'red rot' (also 'acid rot' because pH is in a range between acid and base). In this way one knows that a black holster of the North with red rot can be authentic! The South, because of the blockade from the North, imported their veg leathers from England where oak bark was used by the master tanners as superior by far; and no red rot. I've not ever seen even an image of gunleather that is identifiably 20th century with red rot; identified curing the War the acid ratio was changed to eliminate the problem by 1900.


A.H. HARDY: is an anomaly because, although he was a master saddler the evidence is that the holsters that we collect today with his mark on them were made for him by H.H. Heiser beginning 1919, when Peters Ctg Co. shifted him there as a demonstrator/salesman (today we call such men 'sales engineers'). A forced retirement in 1939 when civilian small arms ammo could no longer be sold left him in Beverly Hills where he died in 1950. A bigger personal influence on gunleather than you might expect because he was Captain (the source of his 'Cap' nickname) of the Colorado National Guard in the year that the force put down the Coalfields Wars (a workers' rebellion). That conflict then pushed Tom Threepersons' future wife Susie out of the state to Oklahoma from whence Tom fetched her for their marriage in Colorado 1917.


H.H. HEISER: a complex tale that began with the German saddler and his English whipmaker partner moving to Colorado when the Civil War ended in 1865. That partner who was the father of better-known saddlers Keyston Bros then left straightaway! And the Heiser company we know today began with Hermann's acquisition of existing Denver saddlery Gallup & Gallatin in 1874 (one of a handful of gunleather makers that existed solely in the late 19th century from founding to closing). That descent makes Heiser the oldest of the western saddleries alongside Lawrence which was originally Sherlock Bros; but neither was in the holster biz in any material way until the early 20th century (the sons in both cases, because of the automobile vs saddlery). Heiser was out of the holster biz when final owner Keyston Bros (yes, that same family) lost interest in that branch of leatherwork 1968. Keyston Bros still exists last I checked, as a raw goods supplier in Nevada.


R.H. HOYT: moved around a lot, with Dick Hoyt having been E.E. Clark's sales force until 1935 when he formed his own operation in Los Angeles. The several city markings tell us when any one Hoyt was made and it continued until the Washington corporation became inactive in 2002; Dick having died in 1987 with his step-grandaughter and husband operating the business since the 1960s. Hoyt appears to have been the first to popularized wireform springs vs leaf springs in holster with both he and Clark holding patents for both kinds in the 1930s.


DON HUME: like Jewett, Hume was a sheriff's deputy but after WWII vs before it. Hume's leather mentor was a WW1 Army saddler! Hence the emphasis on hand sewing of ultra thick leather layers. Long associated with Don's company was Bill Jordan of the Border Patrol and Sam Myres' version of the Jordan holster first appeared in '56 with Don then beginning his run of making the Jordan in 1959. Both were in SoCal near where Jordan was stationed and Hume returned to his home state of Oklahoma in 1962. His holsters can be dated by their markings accordingly. In 2005 Hume retired and the company became employee owned. He died in 2009 and as far as I know the company continues today.


FRANK JEWETT: was known for his clamshell invention though he was one of several partners and did not make the holsters himself. He was a sheriff's deputy and filed his patent (with the other named inventors) in 1932. The shop burned down in 1944 and restarted as Stanroy; which was end of WWII. Safety Speed appeared that year and today it is the name most associated with the clamshell. It looks to have been incorporated in '47. Founder Gresham died 1960 at which time employee Paul Boren took over. Filings show that Boren dissolved the corporation in 2003 and he died in 2008.


George LAWRENCE Co: its founding date was willfully misrepresented, as was J.M. Bucheimer's, using a predecessor company's founding date. In Lawrence's case having been Sherlock Bros founded 1857 but with George Lawrence, who married into the Sherlock family, buying the saddlery in 1893. A full gunleather catalogue for Lawrence didn't appear until 1937. Lawrence operated until the last remaining scion, Bill Lawrence III, sold to Gould & Goodrich in 1985 after being crippled in an equestrian accident (as, ironically, was one of the Sherlock founders); closing it soon after although an employee, Jim Buffaloe, took on the brand for a time then died himself. Bill Lawrence III's son advises Bill died only recently, 2022.


LEWIS HOLSTER: very little is documented about this company of Ed Lewis' or its founder. Plausibly his was Lewis Mfg Co. incorporated in L.A. 1945 although references to the name appear earlier. The company was still operating in 1966. Its products were generally clones of E.E. Clark's, both spring and pouch type, although their biggest shoulder holsters were constructed differently and used different spring layouts.


S.D. MYRES SADDLERY: began with Sam completing his apprenticeship and buying J.K. Polk's saddlery in 1898, a date he used sometimes for his founding. Myres was not really a gunleather maker (though some do exist) until his 1930 catalogue, a conscious shift away from saddlery that was noted by his biographer (wife of Sam's great nephew who married her the very day of Sam's death). There are many eras for Myres holsters that proceeded after Sam's death, with his nephew Dace taking over then, Dace's death in '64 then Sam's son Bill Myres selling the saddle side of the business to saddler Harlon Webb in '65. And Webb selling on to retired Cavalry officer James Spurrier, who was a noted polo player and of the wealthy Osage Indian Nation. Spurrier sold out to Frank LaCroix in 1976 who then sold the physical assets of the company to a chap who created an all-new El Paso Saddlery with them; and LaCroix who shifted back home to Massachusetts where he soon sold the name (only) to David Duclos of the same region, circa 1980. The Myres name is still used on gunleather by Doc Barranti by permission of Duclos who appears to no longer be living, as does LaCroix.


BRUCE NELSON COMBAT LEATHER: Bruce was a Bianchi employee and a special favorite of Jeff Cooper's, and it was through Jeff that Bruce first saw the designs of the all-new Seventrees company in 1967 because Cooper was a company director. Bruce's own range began there and then but Bruce, who had become an undercover agent for California's drug enforcement agency during the Vietnam draft era, stayed with that until marrying then retiring 1984/5. His products appear marked variously but this final operation was Bruce Nelson Combat Leather and he lived until 1995, dying the same year as his associated maker Milt Sparks. A third party makes Bruce's designs today but a Picasso by any other is not a Picasso, it's an 'other'.


SAFARILAND: originally was called 'Safari Land' as the 1964 incorporated name of Neale Perkins' joint venture with John Bianchi that was called Safari Ltd (confusing, eh?). Perkins' father was the money behind Safari Ltd so they booted JB from the operation; today's Safariland holster company still uses 1964 as its founding date. A decade later JB got Perkins interested in Bill Rogers' rendition of Kydex construction, and Neale and Bill transformed Safariland into a Kydes laminate maker 1983 (an identical construction to gunleather substituting heat for water in the formin, but using the same presses as for leather; in this way at least Bill misled the USPTO). In 1999 Safariland was sold to one Warren Kanders for the first time, in 2004 it acquired Bianchi Holster, in 2007 Safariland was sold again to third parties, and in 2012 Kanders again acquired Safariland. The conglomerate's gunleather is marketed as Bianchi and the polymer products as Safariland.


SEVENTREES: No one knows why it was called this. Seventrees is said to have a founding of 1966 at which time Paris decided that a small holster company would be a good front for his lethal weapons business serving the CIA's death squads (for a decade). But Chic Gaylord was not interested in being a part of this (Paris was the CIA's babysitter for Chic, to get their orders made and delivered) so Paris enticed designer/maker Bob Angell away from Gaylord's operation and that was the end of Chic's. All of Paris' company directors were gun writers including Cooper, Skelton, and Zwirz. Seventrees was shut down in 1975 by the Church Committee that ended the CIA's death squads -- Paris was a known killer in them according to his biography -- and the holster line was continued by Ken Null who had been making them anyway by then. Maker Gene DeSantis was then approached by a prominent agent to fill orders for Seventrees designs; Theodore died 2006.


L.A. SESSUMS: was a stout competitor of A.W. Brill's making a nearly identical holster to what is best known as the Sunday Scabbard designed by Charles Kluge for the Texas Rangers 1905. Sessums Bros saddlery dates from 1914 but the Fisher & Sessums hardware company (gun store) that offered the 'Brillalikes' was incorporated in 1932 with the saddler Robert Rogers building them so-marked. Sessums had especially imported Rogers, who was from Mexico, from Mississippi in 1909. It is from Rogers' personal history that we realize that famed Texas lawman Tom Threepersons could have been a Mexican Indian from Rogers' wife Rachel Vilchez hometown in the region of Mexico that was essential to then-Lt. Patton recruiting Tom as a spy there. Vilchez' sister is buried a stone's throw from Lorene Threepersons' lands near Vinita OK while Rachel, like Tom, lived and died in Texas. Sessums died 1945 and the Rogers (son Bedell, then a rodeo rider, had joined him) set up their own saddlery 1947. Bedell lived until 1994 (married/divorced 4x!), his father until '63.


SHELTON-PAYNE ARMS: is a name that is associated with gunleather despite being better-known as an arms dealer to such as Pancho Villa; and much such has survived. Its founder/owner W.H. Shelton was also the founder/owner of the original El Paso Saddlery that he incorporated in 1890 after dissolving Andrews & Hills, today a collectible marque. A&H itself had been formed from smaller saddler Newton & Andrews, also a collectible, in 1882 that included Shelton, too. Its predecessor saddlery was by T.D. Newton who was really Daniel Townsend, changing his name after the Civil War. It was 1900 that Shelton-Payne Arms appeared after selling the first El Paso Saddlery to third parties; EPS folded in 1902 in the face of SPA's competition with them and is not the forebear of today's company using that name. SPA lasted until Shelton retired in 1930 and died 1933; the company continued as Dan Thompson Inc. until that company's last appearance in 1948.


TEX SHOEMAKER: when I first met Tex in 1970 I had the idea that this old-timer was an old-time gunleather maker. But he formed his company in 1968 -- to make the product line that had been abandoned in the sale of Wally Wolfram's operation; to Bangor Punta to form Smith & Wesson Leathergoods. Tex counted his founding from his kitchen table days while serving in a series of LEO roles including police chief. Tex died in 1994 (I was at his funeral as was JB) and the company formally was closed in 2017 and dissolved in 2018. There are several Shoemaker marks that date the products by their location and company names.


MILT SPARKS: has an outsized visibility vs the giants of gunleather because his was a 'lodge pin' brand as a result of publicity from Jeff Cooper; who did for Milt what Elmer Keith did for Berns-Martin: wrote glowing article s introducing the marque, in this case on the back of Milt's copies of Andy Anderson and Bruce Nelson. Despite the misplaced enthusiasm by the marque's current owners, Milt first started up his holster venture in 1972 by visiting Elmer Keith that year, and not in the Sixties. He did not invent any of his holster line but made copies including Andy Anderson and Bruce Nelson. In 1990 he appeared at a new Boise location and his employee Tony Kanaley took over running the business; and the operation incorporated. Milt died the same year as Bruce Nelson, 1995. Kanaley left the business as a result of my lawsuit for his defamation of me several years ago and today there are only 4 or 5 workmen there.


THOMPSON INC.: a surprisingly large number of these have survived into the present day so I'll mention them although it went out of business almost immediately. Founded by former Bucheimer-Clark officer Cecil Thompson it was incorporated in the same year that the Bucheimer companies were sold, 1969. The uniquely-styled designs made an impression because of the stagecoach logo, and the many obvious departures from traditional styles; as if the designer (I think Earl Clark) was told to make the 'look' different in every way from a J.M.B. or B-C. Points where there had been curves, curves where there had been points, etc. Thompson died in his new factory in Northridge in '72. Most of the Thompson versions then ended up in J.M. Bucheimer and Bucheimer-Clark catalogues for the '70s -- and like the Thompsons, always had the letter 'T' in the model number. The stagecoach itself, also with a 'T' imprinted in its door, appeared in Clark Leather holsters that were more in the Bianchi styling thereafter.


WALLY WOLFRAM: I call him the father of post-1960 gunleather because his products were John Bianchi's, too; and by extension, Neale Perkins'; and Tex Shoemaker made direct copies of Wally's right down to the odd numbering system of the models/fitments. Oddly Perkins owned Wolfram's operation just before Wally sold to Bangor Punta in '68 or so. Prior to WWII Wally appears in the Census as a fuel dealer, and leaving the Army Air Force in New Mexico in '45 he began a series of LEO careers and first appears in a city directory there in the leather biz 1951. In '53 he moved over to Monrovia CA PD where five years later a young John Bianchi would become a member of the force. Wally made his products originally under the Wolf mark in NM, then as Blazer in CA; and made both Colt's and S&W's private label goods with their marks. S&W's gunleather line appeared in 1969 with Al 'Kip' Kippen in charge, he being ex-Heiser and J.M. Bucheimer (the Heiser 457 and 459, and the J.M.B. Sloan). He died 1988.


W.T. WROE: Almost an honorary mention because likely you've not heard of Wroe. But he had a big effect on holstory because he not only employed A.W. Brill until Wroe left saddlery to sell trucks and cars, and August Brill started up on his own by buying the saddlery of Kluge Bros; both in 1912, Wroe married the widow of famed Texas Ranger Captain McNelly and the Sunday Scabbards made for Brill by Kluge had been invented by the latter man for the Texas Rangers 1905. All these men had been Confederates. Founded 1886 in Austin, Wroe's saddlery did make gunleather that is collectible today and W.T. Wroe and Sons was dissolved in 1916. He had a brother J.P. Wroe who also made gunleather and died 1930 while W.T. died 1933.


WYETH HARDWARE: Might seem like another honorary mention because likely you've not heard of Wyeth either; but he had a major impact on the gunleather of the late 19th and early 20th century. Nearly all the Wyeths encountered today don't bear his mark because generally his gunleather was 'private labelled' for hardware stores (gun stores). Their construction is so unique that they can be identified from that and their matching catalogue images; and those that are marked, too. He expanded to add his saddlery in 1872 and incorporated 1881. Wyeth Hardware was created to capture the sales from Americans' wagon trains travelling west, at the base of the Rockies in Missouri. Despite the buildings burning to the ground in 1895, Wyeth became the largest saddlery in the world by the time his son took over at his death, employing 500! Wyeth ceased making its own leathergoods in 1958 although the brand continued in catalogues of the 1980s.


P.S. There was only a handful of saddlers, who were also gunleather makers, that were producing only in the 19th century (founded then and closed then). Otherwise gunleather marked by a maker founded in the 19th but still in business in the 20th could have been made in either century. Here's that handful and all are collectible

  • Emerson Gaylord, already mentioned, having a workforce of 450;

  • Main & Winchester, for which master whipmaker Samuel Keystone (correct spelling) left his partnership with Hermann Heiser within a few years of their arrival in CO;

  • E.L. Gallatin & Co that became Gallup & Gallatin and was sold to Hermann Heiser to form his company, 1874;

  • Collins Bros., closed 1887;

  • Moran Bros., closed 1895 (SEE BELOW). Wouldn't it be a hoot if this is actually a Wyeth No. 950, with MB's mark added later?



The balance of the antique collectible gunleather makers all closed in the 20th century ('vintage' is defined as being at least 50 years old, 'antique' as at least 100 years old).


Read all about the evolution of today's gunleather during the 20th century in the second edition of my book, published 2022 and available at www.holstory.com .

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