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  • Red Nichols, Holstorian

Whassat?

It's found on the backside of most vintage gunleather and it even has a fancy name -- but it's a label given by folks who don't know what it really is: a mail link that is the 19th and 20th century equivalent of a website address of today.



Like this saddle, for example. While you're riding through Texas in the 1920s, don't look locally for more like it because it was made in Utah by N.J. Rabensburg in the early 1910s. Send him a letter instead. Better hurry though, N.J. shifts back to Texas in a few years!



You note that its marking is by the saddler himself and not by the retailer (MAKER), and so you'll send a letter or even a telegram to the company at that city and State.



Your letter will arrive at the saddler thanks to the local city directory for every city even if it's a Statewide directory because the State itself is so young and underpopulated. In support of the local post office these directories include the company's name, its owner(s), their wife's name, their employees, etc.



So in this respect the maker's mark is not so much a hallmark of quality, as some including even H.H. Heiser stated it to be, as it is one of taking responsibility for the product. This catalog page is 1915 and Heiser is only very recently in the gunleather business; which it was not during Hermann Heiser's time (d. 1904):



Sure, even today a maker's mark is a significant pointer to its collectability. And a lack of a maker's mark means one has to know a LOT about vintage gunleather to know who did make it; Wyeth comes to mind (on the below example there are no markings save for Wyeth's 'trademark' fitment marks on the backside; and the embossing of the cowboy is found on Wyeth-marked examples, too):




For today's collector, the maker's mark is more like a certificate of authenticity. And, knowing the maker's history (holstory), one can even know WHEN it was made because these marks changed as the company matured and as it changed hands over time. Myers is notable for the many changes in their marks and ownership, and knowing which is which 'dates' the product for you:


Not later than 1919 (above) because it is a Sweetwater mark and Sam reappeared in El Paso after the fire of late '19.


As long as one is not looking at a Myres product that is not also old (this is the earliest version of the Threepersons introduced 1930), the above is not later than 1953 because the mark includes the word 'TEX'.


Not before 1953 and 'plain' like this one, is for a decade; at which point the mark changes to the next image. Notice that there is no 'TEX' in this mark and the mark now is smaller. That sometimes both marks are found on the same holster or belt indicates only that the product was made in the later era and not the earlier one, because even today all Myres stamps belong to one person and he could use one or the other or both as it pleases him :-).


The fitment is not only detailed on this example (done on Heisers then but not on Myres' until this era), notice it also has a four digit number on it that is an order number in ballpoint pen (which had become popular just then). So until about 1975, and the maker's mark changed to the next one.


This one is the late '70s mark of the LaCroix ownership but it was not always used instead of the vintage ones; and on more contemporary products the NEXT marks were once again the old originals until about 1980 when it was 'all stop' for Myres.


The change of hands didn't happen because, as at least one Harvard study claimed, saddlers 'forgot' they were in the transportation business and so didn't proper when the automobile appeared. They did do both (realised they were in the transport biz and switched to automobiles)! And all who did . . . failed, while those who made the switch to gunleather, prospered. Heiser was an early adopter but dropped automobiles in a hurry and went back to gunleather; this is 1918 and it is the reason the company name changed from H.H. Heiser Saddle Co. to H.H. Heiser Mfg. and Selling Co. -- and then back again within a decade:



Knowing these kinds of things will help you date an unfamiliar product, too. When the word MAKER is missing the product will be before about 1950, as it will be if the city/State is missing. By that half of the century gunleather makers had worked out that all they needed to do is state their company name, really, and more modern methods including advertising would get the full address to consumers because city and State wasn't enough any more.


This mark of Heiser's made it from the 1930s through the 1960s:



While Roy Baker 'went national' and put ALL his info on his earliest mark that was for Illinois; so clearly it is not from the first half of the century and includes street number and name -- an zip code:



Yet at exactly the same time, Andy Anderson was putting NO markings on his sets; his good friend Bob Arganbright relates that Andy expected people to recognize his work (plus they didn't buy the set off the dealer's shelf but instead bought it direct from him):



Oh, he had a mark. Or two. He just didn't use them :-)




Realizing that a maker's mark is a certificate of authenticity, we realize that the modern El Paso Saddlery's use of what they try to make look original, is fraud on the consumer. Here's an original:



And here's the worst of their imitation marks although I've examples of them trying really hard to copy the mark exactly. Yes, today's company really is called El Paso Saddlery but these are not the early products themselves:



Which reminds of something I only just noticed yesterday: early gunleather catalogs generally have no phone numbers in them. Yet the telephone has been commonplace in USA since before WW1 (Tom Threepersons received a phone call from then-Lieutenant Patton in 1916). Reason? Surely it was because one couldn't 'order over the phone' then. Has to have made it easier for the solo operators, such as Andy, to actually build his sets vs. answer the 'phone.


Here's just one example, from Berns-Martin: there are NO Berns-Martin catalogs bearing telephone numbers for the entire time the company operated 1936 to 1968. Nor do any of their print material including this self-mailer price list:



I only noticed at all because telephone numbers are just one clue to the date of a flyer or brochure. We identified the date of the second Lewis Holster catalog by its phone number because that number prefix was last used in Los Angeles, in 1946!

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