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  • Red Nichols, Holstorian

Post 20: What the "H?!"

Before there was a Bucheimer-Clark company there was a J.M. Bucheimer company; and a Clark Holsters. And before all of them there was a G.H. Buchheimer company and all of these operations made holsters. (In that era, men were known by their surnames only, and the initials alone were used to distinguish among them. Notably that didn't help the three A.W. Brill father/son/grandson men, who were referred to as A.W. Senior, A.W. Junior, and A.W. III).

It helps to realize that virtually all saddlers and other leatherworkers in 20th century America were either German or from a Germanic country such as the Scandinavian states. And when I say 'virtually all' I'm thinking of only a single gunleather maker from a compendium of 6,000 American saddlers, a Texas maker who was Italian and named Tibiletti.

So the Buchheimers were no exception. I mention this at all because these are not only different people but they are of different eras and made different product lines; all collectible for their individual and not collective reasons. Now we have a very good idea of which era the goods were made in simply from their markings.

The Bucheimer lineage begins at the very start of the 19th century, with the birth of J.W. Buchheimer in Germany. In America he was a grocer and his son was G.H. Buchheimer and t

he first of the leatherworkers in the family in Maryland, where the company we know today came to an end in the 1980s.

G.H. was the father of the better-known J.M. Bucheimer. It had always bothered my natural pedantry that the company laid claim to beginning in 1884 while knowing that John Maurice Bucheimer was not born until 1890. Then, thanks to John Witty, his full ancestry was discovered and so was the work of J.M.'s father, G.H., that began in that year. The only holster of G.H.'s that I know of is quite simple even by the standards of the time.

J.M.'s own son, G.R. Buchheimer Senior, was born in 1928 and all of them are shown as leatherworkers in the family company and with that spelling, right through to the 1940 census when the second 'H' disappears even from the handwritten entry in that record. A coincidence that this is the outbreak of WWII? Perhaps a sensitivity to the name's origin being telegraphed by the spelling? Dunno.

The company appears to have been renamed from G.H. Buchheimer to J.M. Bucheimer around the time of G.H's death in 1937. The original operation has always been in Baltimore MD; specifically in a suburb called Towson that is the origin of Bucheimer holsters that also bear the imprint "Towson Made". That's in part because the company also had a factory in nearby Frederick MD and they are found coexisting in 1952 with the latter specializing in blackjacks. The noted gunleather designer Al Kippen is there that year, too, having left both Heiser and its 'successor', Colorado Saddlery that he cofounded with three other Heiser employees. From J.M. Bucheimer, Al shifts to the newly-formed S&W Leather when Bangor Punta buys out Wolfram Leather for that purpose.

We have no catalogs for the company prior to 1950 and it was in 1953 that J.M. Bucheimer died and his son G.R. took over; and in 1956 that the Towson operation was closed down and the company's products always marked Frederick MD thereafter. Within a year it was Al Kippen and G.R. Bucheimer who filed their patent application for the most significant invention in gunleather, perhaps ever: the thumbsnap. Something went afoul, though, because the thumsnap then was used by every maker including Chic Gaylord from 1960 onwards. I could speculate, but to what avail? Today we take this invention for granted as not only being fast and natural -- prior there was the McGivern Strap which places the release tab on the outside -- but also a hammer shield; so both retention and protection rather than choosing one or the other with the then-common Threepersons or the same but with hammer guard. Or worse, combining the latter two.

In 1959 the surviving sons of Bucheimer and of Clark, namely G.H. Bucheimer and Earl Clark (his father was E.E.), joined forces to create Bucheimer-Clark with this new operation forming a West coast division of the Eastern company. So you will want to pay attention when buying and selling these two very different product lines as they simply aren't the same operations. Their designers were Kippen and Clark respectively and their individual mindsets are clear in the very different creations they contributed to their companies. Both companies became Tandy Corp subsidiaries for the 1970s but it seems that Bucheimer-Clark was closed at the time of Charles Tandy's death in 1978.

The J.M. Bucheimer Company began to refer to itself as simply 'Bucheimer' in the late 1960s and it lasted until around the time of J.M. Bucheimer Junior's death in 1984 while G.R. lived until 2017.




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