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Plaintiff Begs Leave to Reexamine the Witnesses -- Thumbsnaps

Updated: Nov 12

Above, a 1960 Gaylord LEO holster with a thumbsnap, recognisable by its unique stitch pattern among other details, including the rivet at the top of the main seam -- and no marking! Commonplace on his horsehide products with his stamp being too big and flat for the leather to take his imprint. Below is 1959 in a NYC newspaper:

Nowadays it's general knowledge that the thumbsnap appeared in the very late 1950s; and that it was patented then by George Bucheimer of J.M. Bucheimer Co. and his employee, Al "Kip" Kippen" who was an accomplished gunleather designer from Heiser and Colorado Saddlery (and moved on from J.M.B. to S&W Leathergoods.

OOPS. Trouble is, the above catalogue cut with the new J.M. Bucheimer thumbsnap is 1955 -- several years before the two men applied for their patent! The USPTO's 'statutory bar' statement reads: "A person shall be entitled to a patent unless the invention was patented or described in a printed publication in this or a foreign country or in public use or on sale in this country, more than one year prior to the date of the application for patent in the United States". Jan 1955 catalog, Jan 1957 filing: busted!

So now we have a conundrum: this thumbsnap holster below is surely by Wyeth, a huge saddlery and gunleather maker dating from the late 19th century (!) with its massive leather factory staying open only until the very late 1950s. "Surely" because that is Wyeth's hallmark (literally) rolled border pattern showing 'round the perimeter:

The outer side above, with the backside being unmarked in the manner of Wyeth (not shown here); and the inner side's thumbsnap that is a hoodlike rendition of the invention.

At very much the same time, very late 1950s, both John Bianchi and Chic Gaylord made the same claim: that each and not the other had invented the thumbsnap for holsters. We take thumbsnaps for granted today but even Elmer Keith commented in a column in 1962, about this unfamiliar novelty on his new Gaylord! Below is JB's first appearance with his rendition in the 1966 Bianchi Holster catalogue (and not in his prior catalogues as other brands):

The thumbsnap as we know it today, then, is distinguished from its predecessor known as the McGivern Strap by having the release tab on the inside next to the wearer, to be pushed open by the thumb. While the McGivern's tab is on the outside and some images suggest it was meant to be opened with the trigger finger while grasping the gun butt. It was common on swivel holsters for uniformed officers in the '60s, but you've seen it more often on the Lawrence and Myres half-flap holsters. Yes, Ed used them on certain of his crossdraw Myres.

It seemed 'obvious' to abandon the above strap because the snap was a target for the bad guys; so by the '70s we makers all quickly switched over to the thumbsnap that allowed a full grasp of the revolver butt, a natural fall of the thumb to the release tab, and the wide strap shielded the officer's elbow from the spur itself.

We consider these things again because of the Chronology for the book Holstory; that lists holstorical events in strictly chronological order. "If it doesn't fit you must acquit" and so I leave out any such 'facts' from the Chronology that simply "can't be": here, how about a 1960s Donihoo style for the .45 auto but with a late 19th century maker's mark. Knowing the stamp survives to this very day in a Texas museum, it MUST be that the holster was made after Donihoo's invention of his scabbard because J.K. Polk, Sweetwater, was sold to Sam Myres in 1898! And replaced by S.D. Myres Saddlery also of Sweetwater.

The date of the Wyeth (if indeed it is a Wyeth)? Well, Wyeth stopped making its own leathergoods in 1958. Did the owner go to the trouble to copy a J.M. Bucheimer right at the end of their saddlery's lifespan? Or was it made early enough that none of the claimants were ever entitled to claim the thumbsnap's invention?

Speaking of Wyeth (and I was), how about this beauty from that company that predated (by more than a decade) Chic Gaylord's 1956 patent for same but as a shoulder holster. I have called these 'pivot' holsters but now decided to call them 'rocking' holsters instead. The 'glove' snap on this one was used only until WW2 at which time the switch was made by all makers including Heiser to what is known as the 'Dot' snap that is larger and so stronger.

Here's Chic's version, who used a screw and nut that he peened over on the end to prevent it coming loose, versus the common saddlemaker's rivet on the Wyeth that is also peened into a fixed fastener. Ohlemeyer had a 1946 patent for same and his experience with the Gaylord caused him to say, in an interview, that he found his patents to be worthless. Which they are, if one can't enforce them; and Ohly is on record as saying he was broke all his life.

Read more in my book titled "Holstory -- Gunleather of the Twentieth Century -- the Second Edition" that is available at and printed for you/shipped to you in USA.

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