Why "Holstory" the book?

Updated: Sep 16

Issues raised by reviewers have been good for me. There are some assumptions about Holstory the Book, and about my qualifications to write it, that are worth reviewing.

Available at exclusively The First Ed in softcover is out of print.

Holstory is not a vanity project, as were both of John Bianchi's books and even Chic Gaylord's. It was Rob Garrett, gun writer who is popular on Facebook, who noted to me that he was pleasantly surprised that I'm hardly mentioned in it. Good reason: it's not about me in the first place, nor Witty.

This is all that Holstory the Book has to say about us:

The motivation for the book came from Tom Threepersons. Back up: when I was a mere lad working for John Bianchi -- OK, 20 y/o -- the style that is exemplified by the original Bianchi model 1 that had no strap was not ever referred to as a Threepersons. His was a name I heard only in association with JB's gun collection and he counted a revolver attributed to Tom in it. So you can blame Tom for the book Holstory, because . . .

. . . MUCH later I developed a theory that the reason there are welts in a Threepersons is not the reason that JB gave me -- which was to strengthen the main seam, which it does do -- but instead is to retain the revolver without a strap being needed. Texas Rangers, I learned later, called these 'retreating straps' only to be used when not engaging an opponent. JB's first holster model, understandably called the Model No. 1, was such but modified from a true Threepersons by having an open muzzle. Here's a really early Bianchi No. 1 "Lawman":

I found Tom Threepersons' original holster mentioned in a 2008 post on , with tiny images that suggested it was true to the style. Destination: the widow of its prior owner, gun engraver Rachel Wells in AZ. I reached out to her by email and asked if I could have pics because I wanted to see if it had welt(s) in it, and their condition (were they impacted by the frame of the SA revolvers used then). Nope, she said -- you'll have to buy it. She named her price and what was I going to do, try to get a better price out of a senior? I paid it and the holster first passed through my coauthor John Witty's hands in FL then on to me here in Australia.

And there they were: not one but two welts stacked up to bear on the SA frame. But . . .

. . . in the meantime my originally nominal research into Tom Threepersons turned up that there were TWO Tom Threepersons, both of them six foot Indians and living at the same time, but one in Canada and one in Texas. Rachel assured me that the holster was the Texan's because Tom himself had handed it over to her husband at an AZ rodeo in the 1930s.

The original Threepersons holster passed from Tom himself to a very young man who would grow up to be Fred Wells, riflesmith to such as Jeff Cooper, in 1935 AZ. Fred took it out and showed it to all visitors to his shop until giving it to a new friend in AZ 1997. When both men died by 2007 the friend's son returned it to Fred's widow Rachel.

I looked at JB's words about Tom in his book "Blue Steel & Gunleather", Roger Combs' in his book "Holsters and Other Gunleather", Charlie Askins' many published articles that mentioned Tom, Skeeter Skelton's too -- and they were consistent because they were all drawn from the same source: a scrapbook of Tom's about his exploits.

But the Canadian kept coming up, too. And an FOH sent me a copy of Tom's scrapbook! Read 'em all and went looking with a subscription to find those again and look for more. There were LOTS more newspaper clippings -- of both men. I had to keep looking. Below, 600 plus newspaper clipping relating to holstory; the links inside are clickable if you have a subscription to the site:

Clippings -
Download PDF • 23.63MB

So a list I began, which I call The Chronology, began at 100 references to keep them true to a chronological order. "I'll reach a thousand!", I realised. And I kept looking. And one find led to another, and expanded to look for references to the various gunleather makers because it was unclear who had made the original Tom Threepersons holster. The file is VERY hard for a layman to use because it is locked and so is not searchable. But if you know the date, as from referring to Holstory, you'll get there:

abbreviated chronologically
Download XLSX • 474KB

I think it's clear from its construction details who the maker was. And it's just my deduction based on many related bits of info. But in the end it didn't matter who made it, only that it is genuinely Tom's own. It wasn't by Myres but it sure was Tom's because Rachel's husband said that's who he got it from, straight off Tom's waist (empty because even by the 1920s ordinary citizens could not go armed in public) at an AZ rodeo. Very likely it was by Egland & Frankenpohl, newly established 1919 in the city where Tom joined the Army after the two saddlers had left Arizona Saddlery:

This search for information about the players in holstory, a made-up word of Witty's and mine, turned out to be a web of interconnected data. Find one reference and it would mention another player, too; go find more about that other player. And each one happened at a particular point in history, so go find what happened in the macroenvironment, too (Tom was active during Prohibition, for example; and joined the Army for the Punitive Expedition just before WWI was joined by America).

The Chronology reached 1,800 entries in 2018 after starting the project in 2016 and it seemed it was complete. Roy Huntington at American Handgunner gave us the idea that a book about collectible gunleather s/b a coffee table book with color images. But how? Because Roy also said that support for gun mag and book publishing had collapsed and he wasn't going to become involved.

Yes, it's Tom at left and Texas Ranger Lee Trimble is the other man. An article about them and their holsters in Gun Digest cannot be substantiated and Tom is on record as saying "I have never been a Texas Ranger and I never will be".

A blessing, because it forced us to learn about self-publishing. Daunting. And building a book in software like Word. Then finding a company to print the book that did this new self-publishing thing. John Witty and I put our monies together, and he and I gathered support from people we knew to get the images themselves (none were taken expressly for the book), and we ordered a hundred or so of books at a time despite being told by some like Mas Ayoob that there was no market for 'another' holster book. And it was publicity from Roy's magazines and Witty's forum that caused a sudden jump in sales to 500 -- all at U$100 retail (Holstory has never been wholesaled).

That was Holstory's genesis. You can see it was not created to massage our egos -- we're hardly mentioned and we're not in the index at all -- nor was it created as a 'mythbuster' to make people think twice about the players themselves. But that DID happen because of the Chronology: listing every claim and reference in date order forced them to fit or be discarded. So some folks' claims were impossible to justify as anything but prevarications.

The modern El Paso Saddlery, founded 1978, to this day contradicts its founder Bobby McNellis who acknowledged above that today's company is not descended from the original that failed at the turn of the 20th century.

Folks like Geoffrey Boothroyd, who was a volunteer 'advisor' to Ian Fleming for the Bond books (he was not a gun expert). Bobby McNellis for El Paso Saddlery (today's is not descended from the original company), Chic Gaylord (a product of New York's Broadway, as was Paris Theodore), etc. So the book was written to explain what really happened; with footnotes provided, not to 'prove' the facts but to give readers a way to check up on the authors' claims. And to give credit where credit is due, Mas Ayoob made it clear that I had to be absolutely positive about my facts before making a claim -- he saw a very early draft of a very generic holster book and I got a fact very wrong -- and the late '90s book "Packing Iron' has endnotes that are difficult to use as being at the back. Hence: footnotes.

Holstory was meant to be, and is, a history book. And Roy did us a favor by withdrawing his support for getting it published: pro publishers will only allow the most positive 'puff' pieces in associated items like Comb's book for Gun Digest -- he was a Gun World writer. But Witty and I were not so constrained. We didn't ask any maker for holsters or for images; most all were long dead. Nor for their histories; we found all the information on our own.

And all the makers' bullshit was exposed because of this. Serial liars all of them, from the beginning into today. Each created a legend, such as Sam Myres', and it became fact because there were no contemporaries to challenge them. And old or new, future writers simply parroted what they had read about the makers without doing any prying of their own. But we pried, not expecting to bust any myths, but to find the truth for a history book. "Holstory". Because it will be a reference book for another 100 years or more :-).

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