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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
Ya, I don't get the dbl belt thing when one will do.

I know the Texas tradition just haven't yet adopted it (40 years on)

I do like his leather however..
 

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Ya, I don't get the dbl belt thing when one will do.

I know the Texas tradition just haven't yet adopted it (40 years on)

I do like his leather however..
And therein lies a tale :). In the very early 1900s, the Texas Rangers were under pressure to cease appearing in towns and cities whilst bristling with hardware. So Capt. J.R. Hughes, assigned by 1907 to Austin and his men having been officially 'dismounted' accordingly, either was tasked with or took it upon himself to, come up with a solution: conceal the Colt and its belt. The rest is history: he attended the prominent saddlery of W.T. Wroe in Austin, who would in just a year marry the widow of famed Capt. L.H. McNelly. The result was the Brill; August Brill was a clerk and one of his saddler, N.J. Rabensburg, is credited with the holster's design.

Its specification was to wear it on a narrow trousers belt, high with the grip tipped forward to narrow the profile, suitable for wearing under a coat. They did wear the setup on a trousers belt but wore it separately from the trousers loops, so that it could be put on and off readily. That created the double belt effect that has been pictured, though time apparently has led to the gunbelt being full width. In Sam Myres' time they knew better :).

Part of the solution appears to have been the shift from the 7-1/2" Colts that we see often in late 19th century photos of Rangers, to the 4-3/4" barrel that we see in early 20th century pics. The Colt Super Auto appeared much later (circa 1930?) and favoured by Rangers for penetrating car bodies.

Here's a pic of an early Ranger, who is wearing, not a Brill per se, but a clone. A half dozen Texas makers of Brill clones have been identified, as have two different eras of the Brill itself, which was produced after 1913 until 1955 only; since 1932 for them by Rabensburg himself. The Brills were businessmen not leather smiths and made their fortunes in property development, notably Brillville on Lake Austin.

ranger burnett (1).jpg

Wearing what we call a Threepersons is another Ranger of the era (1925). Tom's personal holster, which I hold in my own collection, is identical:

ranger hickman 1925 (1).JPG
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 · (Edited)
Great story Red, thanks for sharing. Makes perfect sense. We use to get chit for showing up in the office all heeled and ready to go to war. Made the office folk nervous some. Likely the reason paddle holsters became so popular at a later date.

Funny how some things never change. But sure do see how and why they did what they did to come up with a two belt rig after your explanation. Thank you. Care to share photo of an original "Threeperson"?

Part of the solution appears to have been the shift from the 7-1/2" Colts that we see often in late 19th century photos of Rangers, to the 4-3/4" barrel that we see in early 20th century pics. The Colt Super Auto appeared much later (circa 1930?) and favoured by Rangers for penetrating car bodies.
One thing I would take exception to in your comments. The 1911 was adopted in Texas (and else where) just as fast as the originals could be stolen from the Army.. and Pershing's Corp. By the time the 38 Super came along the 1911 was well entrenched with the Texas Rangers and Southern Lawmen. The 4 3/4" SAA guns were as well. The shorter guns were adopted by good and bad men as quickly as folks moved to town and got off the horse as the everyday means of travel. First it was the rail road then it was the automobile. Either way the shorter guns were out selling the long guns by the late 1880s.
 

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Great story Red, thanks for sharing. Makes perfect sense. We use to get chit for showing up in the office all heeled and ready to go to war. Made the office folk nervous some. Likely the reason paddle holsters became so popular at a later date.

Funny how some things never change. But sure do see how and why they did what they did to come up with a two belt rig after your explanation. Thank you. Care to share photo of an original "Threeperson"?



One thing I would take exception to in your comments. The 1911 was adopted in Texas (and else where) just as fast as the originals could be stolen from the Army.. and Pershing's Corp. By the time the 38 Super came along the 1911 was well entrenched with the Texas Rangers and Southern Lawmen. The 4 3/4" SAA guns were as well. The shorter guns were adopted by good and bad men as quickly as folks moved to town and got off the horse as the everyday means of travel. First it was the rail road then it was the automobile. Either way the shorter guns were out selling the long guns by the late 1880s.
Thanks for that information :). Bear in mind though, from a reference I have the Rangers supplied (though not their guns) unlimited 'free' ammunition to their men, for practice etc. I expect the calibers they were willing to supply under this programme, likely dictated the guns used during that period. And there weren't really very many Rangers then, either. If interested I will suss that out for the forum. Indeed the 'go-to' holster of the era was the Brill, made for the 1911 and SAA very early; later the DA revolvers. I personally don't know of a way to determine how many carried the 1911 -- ever. But pics of them with the Colt SAA abound :).

Tom's personal 'Threepersons' holster. Apologies for the synthetic Colt SAA in one image, there are no guns here without subjecting oneself to their regulations that can mean one's door being broken down at 4 AM by the local coppers.

2 3p post restore (5).JPG 2 3p post restore (6).JPG 2 3p post restore (4).JPG 2 3p post restore (1).jpg

Its unique feature is that it has a pair of very thick welts at the trigger guard, and these jam up against the frame of the Colt SAA. He carried either of two known SAAs in 4-3/4" (one in 45 L.C. and the other in 44 W.C.F.) in it. Brills did not feature the double welt until building them was handed off to its inventor, saddler N.J. Rabensburg, when he returned from UT to Austin to set up shop at Brill again in 1932 (the two eras are readily told apart by there being only two sets of construction details, one of which has been identified as N.J.'s (he called himself simply 'Rabensburg' according to the man who met him in Austin 1955 and learnt the story of the invention of the Brill).

Notice that Tom's holster carries the Colt vertically; it was the Brill for which the specification was to pitch the gun butt forward. Later it was Arno Brill who created Sam Myres' Threepersons Style Holster range and added the same angle (25 degrees positive, which is the angle that I have coincidentally used for a half century). He even created a Brill clone for Myres that is pictured with the 614 FBI holster; it was called the 666.

Tom's holster, based on its own construction details, is believed to have been built for him by A.B. Egland (forum spell-check wants to call him "England"), a saddler who opened in Douglas AZ in 1919 and remained there until he retired in '41. Tom enlisted in Douglas in 1916 and was discharged into El Paso in 1920, where he became an El Paso policeman and later a detective for the P.D. He had several other billets and yet fully retired from L.E.O duty in Dec of 1927; so a Texas lawman of the 1920s but not, as reputed, of the 1930s. Working with author Jim Coffey, whose book about Tom is about to be published, it has been determined that Tom's legend was invented and promoted by his wife, Lorene (once a Nichols but no relation to me; though her grandson lived and died in Fallbrook, CA where all of us at Bianchi lived in the '70s and beyond). That is, it appears she worked hard to mix her Tom's legend with that of Tom Three Persons, a Blood Indian of Alberta Canada who won the 1912 Calgary rodeo; when he found out in 1928 what 'our' Tom was claiming he said he would sue! It now appears that 'our' Tom's name was never Tom Threepersons under any spelling; he took the identity of the then-famous Blood Indian to join the Army, came out with a his new identity 'washed through'.

Tom's holster was admired by a youngster named Fred Wells in 1934 at the annual Prescott rodeo, and Tom took it off and gave it to him. Fred became a rifle smith so good that Jeff Cooper noted Fred's death in one of his 2006 columns; with Jeff ironically dying that year, too. It had been kept in storage by Fred's widows, a gun engraver in Prescott, until I learnt of it late last year and acquired it for a princely sum.

Until then I'd had no interest at all in the holsters of the Old West; that was boss John Bianchi's passion. But wanting to learn more about Tom (John's description in his book Blue Steel & Gunleather is entirely wrong) led me on a research project so big that it will form the sequel to Packing Iron; a sort of Packing Iron II but by a different author (actually two: a friend holds the world's most complete and pristine collection of notable 20th century gun leather in the world; he is the co-author and is supplying most of the pics of course).
 

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Discussion Starter · #10 ·
The holster from Wilson's book below..



In your opinion is this an actual Threeperson's design? And is it one of T. Threeperson's original holsters?
I ask because as a design it is "nothing" like what your are showing.

Suspect the whole story of the two "three persons" needs to sorted out first though.
 

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The holster from Wilson's book below..



In your opinion is this an actual Threeperson's design? And is it one of T. Threeperson's original holsters?
I ask because as a design it is "nothing" like what your are showing.

Suspect the whole story of the two "three persons" needs to sorted out first though.
And therein lies another curious tale. That holster is indeed a Myres, and a Threepersons Style Holster. And I do expect that Tom owned it. Bob McNellis, who founded today's El Paso Saddlery, had a father who owned a camera and gun shop in El Paso where Tom was a frequent visitor even in Bob's time, and Sr. once owned some of Tom's guns. It is documented that they were inherited by Bob and John Bianchi and he were good mates and that's likely how John came by the gun, the holster, and a replica Treasury badge with Tom's name on it (it is not his Treasury badge; its return to Treasury is documented). The rest of Tom's guns likely were sold immediately after the probate of Tom Powers' estate in 1974 (though he died in '32!). ALL of Tom's guns were in private hands, reappeared late last year, and are now in different private collections (but known to me this time).

But -- and this was a surprise to me, because that holster is in John's BS&G book and implied to be Tom's -- The Autry Museum holds one of the Colts as Tom's, but that particular holster as being Lone Wolf Gonzaulles'. And when a friend of mine contacted John for more info, John wasn't ever sure he ever owned the gun; but if he did, it had gone to Autry when he sold his collection to Gene.

Looking into the history of the Threepersons holster, this particular holster was called the Myres 614 and was introduced by Sam in his 1931 Officer's Equipment catalogue. But Tom left law enforcement in 1927. So what is not in doubt is that this holster you've pictured, is based on Tom's holster that he carried whilst an L.E.O. 1920-1927. The entire range, as I mentioned, appears to have been developed for Myres in 1929 when Arno Brill is known to have worked for Sam in that year. And the holster's body is shaped very much like a Brill, minus the extraneous fender on the back, and the cuff that was attached to it on the Brill. Myers holsters, though, usually have only a single welt; Tom's, and 'late' era Brills, have 2 (and even 3) welts to grasp the pistol frame.

So the Myres Threepersons holster range literally did not exist whilst Tom was an L.E.O. It does appear that Tom had a business relationship with Sam, and that the 614 was created to replicate Tom's holster; but incorporating some of the features of the Brill; notably the high ride and butt-forward carry, because the Brill and the later 614 were concealment holsters for the Texas Rangers and F.B.I. respectively.

Few realise that the Brill's unique configuration is entirely functional: the cuff is placed at varying heights relative to the holster, to create the lowermost edge of the belt tunnel. So some Brills feature a very 'high' cuff relative to the holster body, and some are quite low: in direct relationship to the width of the belt and always parallel to it. The ends of the cuff are hand stitched to the fender behind, with five large stitches on the end that is nearest the holster fold; and 7 or 8 stitches on the end nearest the welt (on early Brills this end is machine stitched).

Far simpler is Tom's! Exact same holster body, but a tunnel formed on the backside by a fold out of the leather at the mouth. And no hand stitching. And no massive triple welt for the machine to punch through, although there certainly were and are saddle/harness machines that do that. Myre's 666, Sam's equivalent of the Brill, is essentially the 614 you're pictured here, stuffed inside the Brill's cuff and fender arrangement. And including a lip at the muzzle, stitched to the tip of the fender. Lotsa work.

There was an actual specification for the creation of the Brill, set out by Capt. Hughes who actually retired very soon after its invention in 1907 whilst he was assigned to Austin: 1915. it included high, and butt forward. It did not include 'exposed trigger guard'.

The two men's legends are mixed but the men themselves are well separated, thanks to the diligent research of people like Jim Coffey: the Blood, name spelt Tom Three Person (three words, middle name Moses) was born 1889, attended Indian School, won the 1912 Calgary Stampede, was a successful cattle rancher. He was never a peace officer, never carried a gun, wasn't a Cherokee, didn't live in AZ or TX, and unlike 'our' Tom didn't live until 1969; he died in 1949 after being trampled by horses on his ranch. Where they became mixed is when an Indian, of pure or mixed blood, appeared at a rodeo in Douglas AZ as Tom Three Persons and claiming to be the original -- but a Cherokee. Including being born in 1889, etc. He joined the Army that way, there in Douglas as Tom T. Persons; and then changed the spelling of his name to Tom Threepersons (two words) in the Austin city directory (blacksmith; he was a Sgt. Horseshoer in the Army): whatever his identity before the Army, it was erased by his service and the proof . . . was now his Army service record.

Tom DID serve in all those L.E.O. agencies, and he did engage in all the gunfights that are documented in contemporaneous newspapers in El Paso. We also have El Paso Sheriff Fox's (a celebrity in his own right) word on that. It is just that the part before his 1916 enlistment -- Canada, Calgary rodeo, etc.) was all done by the Blood Indian. It is believed that Lorene, his second wife (Susie died in Mexico 1923; their son Hiawatha was born and died in 1918 likely during the Spanish Flu pandemic) gave all his interviews; Tom himself is believed to have been illiterate and did not speak much. So those who made their livings writing stories of the old West -- Eugene Cunningham and Oren Arnold -- had every reason to believe her. She was educated, wrote for local newspapers, and was only part Cherokee as the daughter of a wealthy cattle rancher born in Germany and married to a Cherokee in Indian Territory. Being born Cherokee in Indian Territory meant a large land entitlement under the Dawes Act! It's also possible that Tom's third wife Rose was Cherokee.

Which always reminds: Lorene was not, nor Tom who claimed to be, from Oklahoma. Lorene was born in Indian Territory, which was not a State and later became Oklahoma (1907); and we don't at all know where Tom was born, or when (death certificate says OK and 1889) because, although there are plenty of records for Lorene dating back to her birth, Tom doesn't even appear in the U.S. Census under that name until 1920; at which point he holds himself out to be white. It is not until 1940's census that he appears as Cherokee Indian.
 

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brill saa (3).jpg
A Brill from the company's 'late' period, as made by N.J. Rabensburg. We have identified a dozen 'markers' from his known work, and determined there is a grouping of Brills made exactly that way. Believed to be 1932 (his return to Austin) to 1955 (his retirement). It wouldn't be fair to ask forum members to spot all these alternate markers between the two: many are on the backside of the fender. But there is one on the front (not the crease at the edge of the holster and the cuff) that once you spot it, will forever remain glaringly obvious to you :).

brill da (1).jpg
A Brill from the company's 'early' period, which has a different set of 'markers' from the Rabensburg period. It is expected from this, and there being no exceptions with the Brill marking, that these were made by at Brill by Brills, 1913 (the company's opening) to 1932 (Rabensburg's return). Curiously, the almost careless staggering of the basket stamp tool (shaped like a capital H and all the free ends are normally connected to another H) was used only by one other known holster maker: the very early (only) Hoyts by Dick Hoyt himself 1935-1960, whose connection with Clark Holster company was very strong (and Clark did not do this).

5 myres of el paso (1).jpg 5 myres of el paso (1)b.jpg

The Myres 666. Readily missed when viewing Myres' 1931 catalogue depicting all of what Sam labelled "Tom Threepersons Style Holsters", it is constructed like a Brill but using rivets to secure the cuff to the fender vs. the hand sewing. It also uses a single thick welt, as did the genuine Brills from the 'early' period. Notice the 'trademark' attachment of the muzzle of the holster to the fender behind it, by stitching a narrow lip that projects from the muzzle. This is present on ALL Brill clones of which there are 8 known clone makers (and only in Texas) from the era.

Look carefully and you will realise, that the body of the holster is the Myres 614, and to that has been added the fender and cuff arrangement. I also have a pic of a Myres jockstrap style, in which the body of the holster is also the 614; but have never seen it catalogued by Myres.

Some have theorised that Arno Brill was at Myres throughout 1929 (verified in the two city's directories) to learn to maker holsters; on the expectations that S.D. Myres company was an established holster maker. Quite the opposite: Myres catalogued only three holsters prior in their 1922 catalogue, and none are sophisticated constructs like the Brill or the Threepersons. Instead it's believed that Arno was creating the range for Sam, confirmed in my mind by the changes to Brill's sophisticated construction that included leather welts.

Leather welts were a big innovation in that time. In that 1931 catalogue they are mentioned with only the Threepersons Style holsters, and in Heiser's 1939 catalogue introducing their 457 specifically for the F.B.I. (all holster companies wanted that business, including the little-know Crump company; saddlery was dead) the leather welt is specifically mentioned. Today we take them for granted, but it was Tom's holster and the Brill design that used them first and welts were standardised beginning in the 1960s and the Western style of design (Bianchi et al). The Eastern School (Gaylord et al) did not and do not use welts.
 

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Anyone doing a faithful reproduction of this holster?
No one. El Paso Saddlery claims to but have used the cuff incorrectly, to that it doesn't form a customised tunnel to an exact belt width front and back.

The Brill is not a 'style'; it's a construct. So because no one else has ever bothered to work out WHY it is so unnecessarily complex, they haven't copied it correctly, either. Sticking a cuff around its middle and stitching the muzzle to the fender, doesn't make it a Brill. Not least because it's meant to have three welts, placed to grip the pistol tightly.

Everything on a Brill has a purpose, rather than being ornamental. Copyists don't 'get' that.

I make a version that I call a Brillpersons, because the two designs are combined into one. But I only make it for mates, for free, for the 1911 in an externally authentic style but internally very different. Like the difference between the first of the safe-action Rugers vs the original Colt SAA; look the same, actually very different.
 

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Discussion Starter · #16 ·
I find the conversation and additional info from Red enlightening but in the end really disappointing on the evolution of holster design.

I generally find this to be true..

“Perfection is achieved, not when there is nothing more to add, but when there is nothing left to take away.”
Antoine de Saint-Exupéry
,

When you look at the difference between this



and this for a 4 3/4" SAA.....it is really disappointing.




That and the fact of actually carrying a gun some times 24/7 in the past had made me taking a very critical look at holster design. Full grip on the presentation, solid attachment to the belt, draw speed of the design, grip angle on the belt, concealment, retention and finally not something to sneer at, ease of re-holstering. Not an easy list to get right or even close. Pick your priorities because you aren't likely to get it all in any one design.

Although Red's design work on the Bianchi, Chapman Hi-Ride and Pistol Pocket san-s thumb break, would be two I would consider holsters done right. May be just harder to do with a SAA than a 1911.

Done right, with a proper belt loop and seam welt, I'd consider the Myres 614 as "right" for a SAA. I know El Paso versions are sorely lacking for my own use. Anyone know who does make a proper version with the sewn in welts Red has mentioned?
 

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Yahoody, I don't necessarily disagree with anything you've said. Nevertheless I reckon old Tom did pretty well for himself; that holster you've pictured is exactly 100 years old! There was nothing comparable except the Brill in 1918.

I reckon he got what he wanted: a straight drop, because he carried it (we have pics) with the grip at arms length down his thigh. It was only the Rangers who were trying to hide their guns, by carrying high.

Also, when it comes to wanting a 'good' modern SAA holster, be aware that S.A. holsters haven't been moulded to the Colt SAA -- but instead to the larger Ruger Blackhawks and Super Blackhawks -- for nigh on 50 years. The SAA was even discontinued for awhile, and holsters for it sold in small numbers for quite a long time anyway, thanks to the introduction of the Rugers. So they were moulded to the larger pistol, and sold for both.

That is, the Bianchi SAA holsters that I have with me here (a first generation M1898 and a second generation M1) are loose as a goose on a Colt. Neither would the welts work properly on a Ruger. John just didn't know what the welts were for (he sure didn't tell me as a youngster) and I only just worked it out for myself last year. In fact, to prove or disprove my theory, was the only reason I went looking for Tom's original at all; its owner wouldn't allow pics unless I purchased it first and brought it here for pics myself. For which I thank her; it would have remained a theory with only pics.

NO ONE understood, and I doubt there are more than a handful who are convinced of it even now. This is the (now sold out) replica of the original of Tom's, pic supplied by the customer:

3p orders (19).jpg

I can't imagine any designer/maker is spending one moment of his time (there are no female designers working from 'scratch') providing for the Colt SAA; their market is the Glock, about as far from an SAA as one could possibly get until the ray gun of the Fifties finally appears. If/when they get/got down to S.A.s, they're going to head for the bigger Rugers. My own Threepersons replica, sold only for the short Colt, sold in very modest numbers. What I got instead of orders, was requests for a Ruger fitment. But then it wouldn't have been a replica, would it; because he carried only the Colt.
 

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Done right, with a proper belt loop and seam welt, I'd consider the Myres 614 as "right" for a SAA. I know El Paso versions are sorely lacking for my own use. Anyone know who does make a proper version with the sewn in welts Red has mentioned?
I'm wondering about the Speed Scabbard from Thad Rybka?

Rybka.png
 

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Understandably, Yahoody, your overall knowledge of Tom Threepersons is limited, not least by the Wilson pic. Fortunately history doesn't have to make sense to us; it just 'is'. I've had many a dispute with folks over even the holstory that I personally have witnessed; folks believe what they want to, it seems. Tom's 'badge', pictured there, again could have and should have belonged to Tom; but it is not his Treasury badge, because (a) they were cast and into a different shape (b) they were not made from a coin (c) they never had the agent's name on them (that was the function of the paper i.d., which he also returned), (d) they were numbered, and (e) they were not called "officers"; they were called "agents". It's his, but it's not. Likely made by a jeweller. Nothing wrong with that, he wanted something to show for his service.

The gun: I have every reason to believe it was his, because of documentation (hundreds of pages, thousands of references) that I may have mentioned earlier in this thread; and because the chain of possession is easily traced. The same goes for his 'other' Colt, which is even more heavily modified than this one; looks like Tom took a metal file to it in a significant way.

Jim Coffee's book will surely be out next year, and then everyone will know more about Tom's curious life. Yet it's clear that the Myres holster in the Wilson pic, though it could easily have belonged to Tom (which I said earlier) he did not carry it 'on duty'; Myres' Threepersons range appeared in 1931, whilst Tom retired from LEO duty forever in Dec 1927. Legend has it that Tom and Sam worked out a royalty arrangement for his endorsement of the Myres range (which included two shoulder holster in addition to several belt holsters, the one for the auto being nothing like the revolver versions). Despite a trove of Myres documentation being held in Lubbock at the university there, no one I know of has ever bothered to attend and go through them since they were placed there circa 1973. I'm a bit too far away and have been unable to persuade any of my contacts to attend to the task for me :).
 

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My buddy is a Lt. with the rangers. Gets lots of leather belts and holsters from inmates of the state prison system. His rigs do look really good with all the ranger badges attached


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