• Red Nichols, Holstorian

Post 93: That all Myres are created equal.

Updated: Oct 12

Our Declaration of Independence is on my mind and so I've butchered one of its lines to talk about the S.D. Myres succession. The company changed hands, not early but often, after the death of Sam Myres in 1953. His company was so low profile by the time I joined Bianchi Holsters in 1970 that I didn't even know while I worked there for two decades that Sam was long dead.

The original S.D. Myres company was a saddlery and little more. And that original saddlery was in Sweetwater TX and not yet in El Paso. Sam liked to use an incorrect founding date (1888) that was actually when he began his apprenticeship as a 'saddle cub' and I expect that involved lots more floor sweeping than leatherwork.

The S.D. Myres company instead was founded when Sam purchased the saddler of J.K. Polk in Sweetwater. After completing his apprenticeship Sam did not settle down immediately and first had a go at creating a tannery in TX. That failed. In 1898 then, Sam bought out Mr. Polk and operated there until 1919 when that particular shop burned down while Sam was on travel. I don't actually suspect his 'new' ex-wife Drusa of arson but it's quite a coincidence that Sam had taken up with Tess at that very time; and a woman scorned . . .. But it could easily have been a discarded cigarette or even the flame from the waxpot on his Randall stitcher (the machine was at the center of the fire); and many saddleries are reported as burned at one time or another including at least two of Heiser's. And another of its owner, the Denver Dry Goods!

The shop was reopened at a different location and as I understand it, continued as primarily a western clothing store until the late '30s under his nephew Dace Myres (not a mispelling of Dale Myres who, it turns out, was Sam's oldest son who also was Samuel Dale Myres. Jr.).

So it was in 1920 that S.D. Myres shifted his company to El Paso after having been mayor of Sweetwater, and married Tess who is another story in her own right. She was substantially younger and yet died long before Sam; in fact only some years after their wedding. Look carefully at her cause of death; it was not what the family claimed publicly.

It was in 1930 that Same discovered gunleather for he had only a holster or two in his prior catalog. That year was the big launch for the Tom Threepersons Style Holsters that included more than belt holsters; it included two shoulder holsters as well. And it is in this way that we can appreciate that Tom Threepersons, who had a unique belt holster that he is known for but is not known to have ever used shoulder holsters, had merely licensed his image as part of how he made his living. He did much the same for rodeo clothing and although a rancher (we now know exactly where his ranch was in NM) was not known to work much.

The gunleather during Sam's lifetime that ended in 1953, has two eras: a very early styling that is known to have been worn by Texas Ranger Tom Hickman who was Hank Sloan's uncle (famous FBI agent and gunleather inventor if you didn't know), and the better-known styling used by the FBI during the Roaring Thirties by such as Jelly Bryce and his fellow agent who was Jerry Campbell. And the mark, was "S.D. Myres - El Paso, Tex" -- and we call this the 'with tex mark'.

We call it that, because there is a second, smaller stamp that is "S.D. Myres - El Paso" and no Tex or Texas; and we call this the 'no tex mark'. The closest the combined forces of holstorians have come to dating this transition is that it appeared at Sam's death. There are many reasons why this is the most plausible timing including the next era that was Dace's.

This next era, then, with Dace Myres having become head honcho at Sam's death -- we know this because the Son of Sam, Sam, returned to the business (he was a university professor) at that time only to be sent away by Dace as there being 'no room at the inn' for him. Sam Jr. ,who was known as Dale as mentioned, set up a separate operation in Mexico itself as Dale Myres and his products are marked 'Myres Made in Mexico'.

After Dace died in 1964 the entire operation came unglued, in the sense that Bill Myres, Sam's second son, sold or otherwise handed off the Myres saddlery to one Harlan Webb who was a master saddle maker of Texas in his own right. It is in this era that was 1965 to 1975 that we believe the Myres 'no tex' holsters are those that have a four-digit number written in ballpoint pen on their backsides; made easy by knowing the ballpoint pen first appeared in that era.

Harlan operated the Myres Saddlery and was proud to count at least one famous actress (Kim Novak) among his clients before he sold out to another man who was Colonel James Spurrier, a cavalry officer and noted polo player who had Mrs. JFK in the stands at his games at least once. So it was that in 1975 the Colonel (retired) took over the S.D. Myres company 'because he could': Spurrier was Osage and for that reason, very wealthy. The Osage who had been removed to Oklahoma Territory (or was it Indian Territory?) had retained their mineral rights in the process -- and oil was discovered before the turn of the century. A requirement to share in the wealth of that Indian Nation? To be at least one half 'blood' and the Colonel had an Osage mother and an Anglo father (little-known: Jelly Bryce was part Indian, too, and didn't much appreciate being reminded of it).

S.D. Myres under Spurrier lasted hardly a year. An announcement in the local paper (by none other than noted writer Sheriff Jim Wilson who also wrote a column then) stated that the company was closing -- then being reopened in a sale to one Frank LaCroix. This was a significant turning point in gunleather for more reasons than Myres: LaCroix then sold the Myres name to David Duclos and the Myres assets -- machines etc. -- to Bob McNellis. And Bob used those assets to start up today's El Paso Saddlery Co. that is not at all connected to the original that failed in 1902 despite their claims otherwise (nor is today's EPS descended from the Myres company; to quote Penny on Big Bang, "I'm just giving you the napkin, Sheldon").

There are no known Myres holsters made under Spurrier's tenure; which is to say there are no Myres holsters that don't already fit into the other eras have been identified. But LaCroix's we do know: he used his own mark styled after Sam Myres' early saddle mark.

Duclos' holsters by Myres are also readily identified -- but not by their mark because he used the 'with tex' mark -- instead by their design that were almost exclusively what we think of as the John Wayne's "Hondo" holster; although he used this same style in all his western films, notably in "Red River".

It appears that David Duclos still owns the Myres mark and has licensed a current, small maker to use it. And both of the stamping tools still exist in his hands. Yet there were more, notably the Sweetwater marks of which there were two. The one Sweetwater mark in an oval is nearly identical to J.K. Polk's mark and so we can expect that it was Sam's earliest; and the other I expect was created after the fire for Sam's new quarters there in Sweetwater but just prior to his shift to El Paso.

The original Sweetwater marks look like this:

While the later version is very close 'but no cigar' and appear to be from Duclos' era:

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