• Red Nichols, Holstorian

Post 41: Oh what a tangled web -- untangled

Updated: Aug 10

Now, at the completion of the holstorical research over four years for the book Holstory, the final player has been located and that discovery has revealed "what a tangled web" among several players.

That 'final player' is Ed Lewis, a man whose company that I had begun to believe was simply Clark Holster's alter ego because the two companies made identical products in most cases, and their business addresses were within walking distance of each other, and Lewis himself simply eluded identification.

We were able to link up a series of events in records, that led to a more informed use of our genealogical resources; and that revealed a curious connection among R.H. Hoyt, E.E. Clark, and E. Lewis: they were all born in Kansas. That's proof of nothing, of course.

They also all made wireform-spring holsters, with Hoyt actually being Clark's sales rep in the mid-1930s and Clark's wireform holsters then appearing around 1935 at the precise moment that Hoyt himself broke away to form Hoyt Holsters in Los Angeles. Did I mention all these companies are not only in the area called Downtown Los Angeles, but so was the later Bucheimer-Clark?

E.E. Clark contributed several of the earliest patents to holstory and it is his forward draw holster patent that is the first of two patent markings on the earliest of the Berns-Martin "Speed" holsters. We've deduced that Elmer Keith's article about John Berns' new holster in early 1932, in which Keith explicitly notes that Berns will not patent his holster, triggered a response from Clark that resulted in a license being taken by Berns: he filed his own patent at the end of that year.

The markings continued the rest of that decade, until WWII began; at which time Berns-Martin was shuttered and didn't reopen until both patents had expired in 1950. And so it is at that time that the oval Berns-Martin logo appeared on their gunleather for Calhoun City Mississippi.

R.H. Hoyt is an early company as stated, and hit its stride well after Dick Hoyt had retired with his wife to Washington state quite close to 1950, leaving the operation to be managed by Woody Hershman who later married Hoyt's step-grandaughter. By the time I became involved in the LEO world -- I was a police sciences student at my local community college and a humble, $1.65/hour uniformed/armed security guard (but that duty included the Berkeley riots, does that count for anything?) -- the Hoyt was THE holster. It impressed me heaps; but being young and married I couldn't pony up the funds for a genuine Hoyt so I made my own! From memory; and by making and normalizing my own spring.

So now it appears that Ed Lewis was discharged from the Army at a time when the length of service was "duration of the war plus 6 months" and generally that was measured from the end of the war with Germany vs. Japan (separated by 6 months or so). A company called Lewis Manufacturing Company was incorporated in December 1945. We have a small, grainy image of a Lewis flyer announcing their second catalog and it bears a phone number -- MIchigan 2001 -- and these prefixes were replaced by "213" in 1947. We also have a catalog of King Gun Sight Co. that calculates from its number to be 1947, in which the Lewis spring crossdraw is called out as replacing the Clark version.

And E.E. Clark himself died in 1948 with his son Earl having joined the Army (!) post-war in 1946. A 1950 Clark brochure is in our files; and all this suggests that Clark continued under Earl Clark and with Ed Lewis operating alongside, until Earl Clark formed Bucheimer-Clark with his contemporary, G. Richard Bucheimer in 1959.

All the addresses are within minutes of each other: Lewis' two home addresses, his two business addresses, R.H. Hoyt's Los Angeles operation that was later shifted to other suburbs, Clark Holster's business address, and even Bucheimer-Clark's original business address.

Clark was the first to create cylinder recesses for revolvers, often cutting them right out of his shoulder holsters. Hoyt then made his cylinder recesses with them entirely concealed, and Lewis made his (as did Clark) as cups molded into the outer layer of leather. Hoyt's forward draw holster is what popularized his shoulder holster method and it was incorporated later into John Bianchi's more famous Model 27 Breakfront; who then turned on the b.s. when he told me that he had invented the idea of molding the cylinder cups into the holster, and I incorporated them into the Model 28 Judge forward draw holster.

Below is the 'winged crossdraw' 999 by Clark in the mid-1930s from which Bruce Nelson took his idea of a winged crossdraw but without a spring: The No. 1 Professional.

It was Paul Boren at Safety Speed who then created what's thought of as the jacket-style belt loop hanger that allows the Ike jackets to be worn fully zipped but the holster on the outside; at Bianchi we came up with our own but stumbled around a LOT and even our final version wasn't the equal of Boren's first effort! His was hooked through the holster face at its base then riveted through the hooked layers; bulletproof construction. But of course his patent forced us in another, lesser direction. Good on 'im.

Safariland of course came up with their own version, as did Rogers with his plastics, of these hangers. And today these are standard on LEO holsters even though forward draws and cylinder recesses are long gone; leaving Paul Boren as the inventor who made the most lasting contribution to police holsters of all of us! His company, Safety Speed, was formed from the Jewett Safety Holster company that originated the clamshell and Boren was the clamshell's maker during the famous Adam-12 era of the 1970s.

There were several makers and marketers of the clamshell and perhaps that will be the subject of another post here :-).


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