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A TRUE 1870’s “ROSE TEXAS SADDLE” – THE TYPE USED ON THE EARLY WESTERN FRONTIER BY CATTLEMEN, HUNTERS AND SETTLERS – A VERY SCARCE EXAMPLE IN VERY GOOD CONDITION:  This is a scarce example of  a ca. 1870’s “Rose Texas Saddle” which has survived in very nice condition, and it is a striking example of one of the true stock saddle patterns ridden by the cattlemen, buffalo hunters and settlers in Texas and throughout the Western Frontier. 


Through the last half of the 20TH Century, a lack of reliable research and the compounded inaccuracies brought about by the creation of cowboy mythology by Hollywood and continued misidentification by collectors have muddied the true history of the American Civilian Saddle.  Until recent years, many of the saddles attributed to the 19th Century stockmen and frontiersmen were in fact, saddles produced well after 1900 and in some circles this inaccuracy is still prevalent.  Later this year the first detailed study of the American Civilian Saddle written by Ken Knopp will be published and it is certain to become recognized as the seminal work on the subject.  Ken is well known for his series of books covering the history of Confederate Saddles and Horse Equipment and articles detailing the history of related pieces of horse equipment.  While his study is a comprehensive work, encompassing the earliest years of saddlery in the American Colonies, his coverage of the birth and development of the classic American Cowboy Saddle will be of particular value for everyone who collects artifacts related to the post-Civil War American West.   

It is of little surprise that a number of Texas saddle makers had considerable influence on the characteristics of the saddles which would be developed for the post-Civil War West.  The famous “Hope” Saddle, created by the Hope Brothers of Washington County in the 1830’s, quickly became a popular and enduring standard.  Another less well known Texas family of saddle tree makers and saddlers, the Rose’s, had shops in New Braunfels and Weimar, Texas through the 1870’s and 1880’s, and their saddle trees gained enough fame that nation-wide saddle companies, who marketed saddles through a well developed catalog sales system, highlighted the family name in their catalog listings – the “Rose Texas Saddle”.    

This Rose Texas Saddle was a well established pattern by the time it was offered for sale in the 1876 Saddlery and Harness Catalog issued by Decamp, Levoy & Co. of Cincinnati, Ohio.  Texas cowboys, having trailed their herds north to the railheads at towns like Abilene and Dodge City, Kansas, were ready buyers who needed to replace their worn out saddles.  Appealing to the cowboys’ needs and preferences, these saddles were an amalgamation of characteristics developed through the years in regions across the country such as the St. Louis, Texas, and California schools of saddlery.  Incorporating a large diameter flat top horn crowning the Rose tree, the Sam Stag rigging looped around the base of the horn, a half leather seat, a square-cornered full skirt decorated with conchos and leather discs, and full fenders, this saddle closely matches the saddle shown in the Decamp & Levoy catalog listing and there is little room for doubt that this saddle is indeed a Rose Texas Saddle.  Whether or not this particular saddle was sold by Decamp & Levoy, it is certainly a scarce survivor from the mid-1870’s.   

The rawhide covered tree is strong with no movement or loosening and the seams of the covering are intact.  On the offside (right) side bar, between the horn and the leather seat, the rawhide covering the side bar is worn away.  Based on the smooth patina of the exposed wood, this area of rawhide was likely missing during the period of the saddle’s use.  Otherwise the rawhide is strong and intact throughout.    

The Sam Stag rigging is fully intact, with strong, pliable straps and they depend down to the large iron girthing rings on both sides.  The straps are decorated with copper conchos and leather discs.  Full length girthing straps are present on both girthing rings. 

The leather half seat is in excellent condition - fully intact with no splits, tears or weak points, and it retains a bright shiny smooth surface.   

Of particular interest on this saddle, the rear crest of the seat the cantle roll is covered in light weight black enameled oil cloth.  The use of this enameled oil cloth to cover saddle trees is documented at least as early as the Civil War when the Confederacy resorted to using the oil cloth when supplies of leather were not available.  Its use on this saddle was likely a cost saving measure in order to keep the saddle within the reach of the limited finances of working cowboys and other frontiersmen.  Incredibly, the oil cloth has survived in very good condition with only minor rubs along the crest of the cantle and some light raveling along the exposed edges.  Surviving examples of oil cloth covered saddles are extremely rare for the simple reason that the cloth was no where as durable as leather.  The limited use of the cloth on this saddle is still a notable feature and one of historic importance in the lineage of the American stock saddle. 

The saddle is fitted with large square cornered skirts which are not only original to the saddle, but have survived in remarkable condition.  While showing the expected evidence of use that comes with having been ridden over countless miles, the skirts are full form save for a small notch missing on the rear edge, and another on the bottom edge, of the near (left) side.  The surface of the skirts is crazed, but it still holds a nice shine and the border edging is still legible.  Three of the same copper conchos which adorn the Sam Stag rigging decorated each corner of the skirts, however a number of them were lost in the course of the saddle’s life as can be seen in the photographs. The leather is pliable overall and the lacing which joins the skirts behind the cantle is intact.   

The original laced stirrup straps with the integral sweat leathers (fenders) are still intact and full length with no damage or weak points, and from them depend the original wood frame stirrups.  The original edge stamping on the fenders, and the matching stamping on the edges of the stirrup straps is still legible, the surface of the leather though crazed still holds a nice shine, and the leather is pliable.     

Overall, this Rose Texas Saddle is one of the most attractive specimens I have ever seen available on the market.  As noted above, if subjected to extended use and poor storage, these saddles simply did not survive, and that this one exists in such high condition is not only remarkable, but it is a rare opportunity to add a true early Western Frontier saddle to your collection.  (0401)  $1850



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