Lost and found -- Ed Lewis and his Lewis Holster Co.
For awhile I had considered the possibility, though farfetched, that Ed Lewis of Lewis Holsters didn't exist, but was an alter ego of Ed Clark's. Both were named Ed and they made virtually identical products, to the point where for most of the holster range one needs to see the backside to know which holster is which.
The first one (above) is a Clark, the second (below) is a Lewis:
But I persisted in my search for Ed. Understandably his is a common name for the period even in Los Angeles and there simply wasn't enough accumulated information to be sure I had found the right man. To start with I had only this tiny, grainy image telling me his name was Ed. Lewis, including that pesky 'period' after his first name.
But there were clues including his phone number; I didn't 'get it' for quite some time. And another: it's his second catalog, states the piece, and the first was 'about a year ago'. And his address. It turns out that these bits of information told us: it's 1946 now because 1947 is when the 213 telephone prefix appeared, and the first catalog was 1945. Then Google maps put his address quite near Clark's and Hoyt's, then a home address, too, that also was in the same cluster.
Anyway, like Jack Donihoo who walked out of his Army service into Dallas P.D. that same year, a Lewis company was formed at the end of 1945, too: Lewis Mfg. Co. One can see how a California Secretary of State search for a Lewis company would result in lots of 'hits', and 'Lewis Holster' didn't ever come up. But with the location and the date to winnow down the list of Lewis companies, well, Lewis Mfg. Co. is consistent.
How did Lewis come to make the same products as Clark? I'm content to think that his Army service turned him on to pistols and carrying them -- again, like Donihoo who was not only a gunfighter but a holster designer/maker -- and one of Heiser's top men is quoted as saying "Since the War everyone wants to carry a pistol". Works for me. Clark then was the obvious target for Lewis, as a proven sale to the local LEOs. And copying is easy: just buy one of every size and take it apart.
Both Dick Hoyt and Ed Clark were born in KS, and Dick was Ed's original sales force. That's an easy connection. By Dick's time both men had switched from leaf springs for their crossdraw holsters (which includes shoulder holsters) to wireforms (as had Berns-Martin; that I can't explain) and Lewis' were, too. But despite all the info I have about 'our' Ed Lewis I have only his death place -- 1972 in WA -- but not his birth place that might make some kind of arbitrary connection (or not) there. Yet WA is where Dick Hoyt retired to by 1950 (Ed Clark d. 1948) and lived until 1987; and Dick's competitor since 1970, A.E. Nelson, was in OR. Seems like too many coincidences to actually be just that.
And a switch from Clark holsters to Lewis holsters by King Gunsight -- in 1947. With Ed Clark's impending death the following year, and his son Earl being still in the military (Panama). Gotta be.
From all this it seems that Ed Lewis was b. 1906 and his SSN was issued in WA 1950 while Dick Hoyt was retired there. This man's Army release date was 1943 and I've located a classified ad for a Lewis holster in an AZ newspaper: "Colt automatic pistol, Lewis holster" on 15 August; was Ed Lewis the holster maker on furlough, then?
In the 1940 census Ed was an automobile salesman, which is not as inconsistent as it sounds -- consider that Wally Wolfram was a gasoline salesman that same year. The Depression and the War that ended the Depression, had folks then in 'whatever it takes' professions beforehand; and for holstory, put them into the holster biz right after. And also keep in mind that the 'where', as with Wally, came from 'where' they were stationed and then furloughed; all military personnel were released at War's end exactly where they were at that moment (Wally was from the East coast but stationed in Albuquerque NM and that is where he started up his (first) holster company upon release November 1945).
A Lewis for the automatic is readily identified: no cylinder pocket.
Enough about the trivia of Ed Lewis himself; how about some trivia about his holsters? He had some gunleather that was not identical to Clark's, and is quite collectible. It was he who turned the vertical spring shoulder holster 'inside out' and JB followed with one of his models; but as good the theory is of configuring the yoke of the holster on the outside in practice, it causes the muzzle of the pistol to droop outwards vs. clinging tightly to the waistline (hopefully, few shoulder holsters do this very well).
The Lewis for revolvers is equipped with a cylinder pocket.
This shoulder holster (below) is a lefty: