• Red Nichols, Holstorian

Yet another 'lost and found': Thompson Inc.

Updated: Feb 6

For some years we holstorians have been wondering about Thompson Inc-marked gunleather that also had unique styling details. "For some years" I mean 50! And at the appearance of Clark gunleather that emulated the Thompson's unique styling markers and also used the identical stagecoach mark that included the "T" on its door.

Now Thompson himself has been found: he was Cecil A. Thompson who appears as C.A. Thompson, V.P. of Bucheimer-Clark in 1968. And Thompson died in '72, leaving the Clark brothers to carry on with the coach mark but using their own name, Clark, alongside it.

This all seems to come together in having found the precise dates of Bucheimer and Bucheimer-Clark being sold to Tandy Brands in 1969 -- and then both being sold again in 1983 with the rationale being the death of Tandy heir Charles Tandy in late 1978. It seems to us that Thompson, being out of a job at B-C with the Tandy purchase that year, struck out on his own using his own name and unique mark; and the Clark brothers had a vested interest in his success with the only unassigned patent of Earl Jay Clark, the middle son who earned 11 patents in his lifetime, being used by only Thompson.

In that regard, that every little design detail of the Thompson holster is different from the corresponding Bucheimer-Clark product, is surely the work of Earl Clark.

A side-shoot of this is that the utility patent of Paul Boren's, who owned and operated Safety Speed Holster, issued within a month of Clark's design patent -- and for that reason, both were in 'prosecution' with the USPTO at the very same time and so do not 'cite' to each other. It's too much of a coincidence that they are identical in styling given that the two men also lived and worked in the L.A. area in that moment.

The Thompson holster, called the BTO (B for black, T for Thompson, O for open) is line-for-line identical to the Clark patent; notice even the special shape of the sewn end of the belt loop is a match for the patent (the left side page of the patent).

Boren's patent is a utility patent and a clever melding of the Clark design and his own 'jacket slot hanger' invention that we all emulated but did not copy. Both the Boren and the Thompson use the same oddly-shaped safety strap:

Both Boren's and Clark's patent applications were 'in prosecution' at the USPTO at the very same time and issued in '75 within one month of each other. This explains why, despite their obvious similarities, neither could 'cite' the other to the USPTO as 'prior art' -- they were contemporaneous inventions. Yet the Safety Speed continued to be the backbone of the company while the Clark by Thompson was not ever made again:

A large part of what's unique from a utility standpoint, is the slot into which the trigger guard is inserted; and the spring that is inserted just behind the barrel's muzzle. Prior such springs were inserted just below the cylinder even for the longer barrel lengths but the Thompson/Clark arrangement always originated at the muzzle. Below is the earlier Clark approach as used on the Bucheimer-Clark called the Marshal:

E.g., the above fitment is for a 2", the one below is for a 3" or 4" -- but the spring stays where it was on the 2":

This is one of the Clark brands that carried on after Thompson's death and is the rarest of them all: a 'Coachella'- marked product that is a city in 'nearby' Riverside county:

Clark also used the stagecoach with the 'T' in the door on designs that were purely Clark such as the famous 'Dirty Harry' holster that was a Bucheimer-Clark originally. Here notice the harness that is a Bianchi design and attached accordingly, vs the one piece yoke that is stitched to the 'ears' of the holster on the original B-C:

The holster was made with and without the screw that likely acted more as a limiter to prevent the spring from being 'sprung', than as a tensioning device. The film was 1971 and the harness being stitched to the holster 'ears' indicates it is a Bucheimer-Clark. Also notice that the 6-1/2" revolver doesn't fully seat (the cylinder recess does not align) in what must be a 6" holster.

I'm really feeling for J.M. Bucheimer Jr. because he died within months of Tandy selling off the J.M. Bucheimer and Bucheimer-Clark brands, in 1984; a heart attack. The buyer bankrupted the company in '89 and it was Brauer Bros. of St. Louis that bought its assets at the liquidation sale. While junior's brother, the mover and shaker who was G. Richard Bucheimer, lived well into this century.

After the sale to Tandy in '69, then after the death of Thompson in '72, it would appear that the several Clark brands appeared that included that Coachella mark with the stagecoach, and the Clark brand with the stagecoach and no city but with a fitment marked as were the very original Clarks (a caliber and a barrel length vs. a part number), and the Clark brand with and without the stagecoach (!) that is marked Anaheim; in the 1980s there was yet another Bucheimer and another Bucheimer-Clark that used variants on what I call the 'Reticle Mark'.

There are at least two variants of it, with one for Bucheimer alone (top line of the mark) and one for Bucheimer-Clark (one name each is above the 'B' and below it):

Now notice a couple of seemingly insignificant things: the one marked Bucheimer only is using the Thompson mark (B for Black, T for Thompson, A for the style) not a Bucheimer mark; and the 'B' itself is slightly different from one to the other: one line segment inside the central circle is missing on the Bucheimer-Clark. What does it all mean!?

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