• Red Nichols, Holstorian

Post 90: The eyes have it

Updated: 4 days ago

As a group we buy a lot of gunleather online, and often 'vintage', where all we have until the parcel arrives are its images. Often the seller doesn't even know what the item is, or what it fits, either. Sometimes the experts don't know, either!

From time to time I'll give you some big clues that will help you, and help you help the seller, if you're a collector of certain goods.

The one that inspired me to write today, is the clamshell. Yeh, yeh, Adam 12, whatever. The clamshell is older than Adam 12, a TV show about the LAPD of the 1970s that featured the 'trick' holsters (the trick wasn't the drawing, it was the holstering!). Invented in the early 1930s while the TV show was much, much later. Notice the reference to two versions, which will make more sense when you read on; this is 1965:

A bit of looking for consistencies, a bit of help from Mike Woods' research, and voila -- a Jewett that was the original clamshell of the mid-1930s, identifiable at ten paces:

Yes, it's the configuration of the metal tab that sits behind the trigger to prevent the revolver being fired while locked into the holster. It's a Jewett, all right, made by his business partner Al Northey. For their version this metal tab was a wireform that had become the rage in the mid 1930s for holsters like Clark, and Hoyt (and, well, not Lewis; not a company until 1945).

Next clue is the style of its mark -- and on a Jewett it's hidden away inside the holster. This, then, is for when the holster is displayed open, too, and s/b a confirmation only if you've identified the tab (I suppose that there is no mark on the backside of the belt loop should have been your first clue, too):

Up close it looks like this:

Above is one version, and the oldest I think. Then the one below:

We're beginning to see how we ended up with a Safety Speed Holster Co. by the end game and Adam 12: the two phrases 'Speed Holster' and 'Safety Holster' were melded into one. The two companies used several different swivel heads, too, but I've not put too much emphasis on whose was whose and in what era. Makes my head hurt:

Frank Jewett had business partners, and he had a wife, too. Divorced from her in '39, the holster then also appeared under her family's name, Stanroy. And these are made with this version of the trigger tab:

It's a bit of steel plate sticking up through the lining, vs. the wire of the Jewett; and it has a hole through it. The mark is on the outside of the holster now, on the backside of the belt loop:

There was a bit of argy-bargy about the clamshell name, it appears. Here it is on the C.A. Hoffman & Sons version -- and we already know which of the two companies made it for Hoffman, which was a police uniform store and not a maker, don't we? From the tab type:

There was a Canadian patent for the holster, too; where the Patent Office called it, in French, an 'iron holster' and the first we see of it is on the nearly final version that is by the new operation called Safety Speed Holster Co. The numbers do not ever appear on the 'modern' Safety Speed clamshells, much as Berns-Martin stopped marking them at expiry:

It is by knowing that both of these patents were issued to Frank Jewett that we also know that Safety Speed Holster Co. was the ultimate heir to the Clamshell Holster Fortune. And it would appear that this transition, to Paul Boren who operated Safety Speed in modern times from Al Northey who made them as The Speed Holster Co. for Frank, was caused by Northey's death in 1960. Al fitted all the lockwork originally and his wife fitted the leathers to the shells; I would expect that Paul had them made by a third party because there's no evidence of the fiddly handwork of the Northeys in the aluminum shells of Boren's. Paul lived until 2008.

L.A.P.D. in 1955:

Whack a magnet on any you're unsure of, just to impress your friends at the bar :-). The early ones are steel.

There was also one by L&A Leather, which also made a forward draw to compete with Hoyt et al. It's made from much in the ethos of the final Safety Speeds and this one is immaculately constructed. Those w/b Fuzzy Farrant grips:

In the interest of completeness, I add this info about early and late Safety Speeds. The 'early' has a tab like this one:

And the 'late' version has a plastic plug over it, that is a more positive block for the guard:

Then you can bet your buds that they can't find another one of these, which is the toy version for the Hopalong Cassidy collection. It was once in my own collection:


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