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Tony Lama Boots History

Born to Italian immigrant parents in 1887, Tony Lama first learned the leather and boot trade at the age of 11 when he apprenticed a shoemaker in Syracuse, New York. In the early 20th century, Lama joined the U.S. Cavalry as a cobbler for the soldiers stationed at Fort Bliss, Texas. After completing his service in 1911, he stayed in the border town of El Paso, Texas. While there, Lama met and married Esther Hernandez, a pianist and music teacher. Soon after, he opened a small shoe and boot repair shop. Repairs were initially the biggest part of his business, but the boots he made soon became popular. In the first year, together with his one employee at the time, Lama sold 20 pairs of handcrafted boots.

By the 1930s, Western wear stores began asking for Tony Lama’s boots. In response, he developed methods to produce greater quantities. Over the next two decades, Lama’s six children became actively involved in the business. In 1946, his son, Joseph “Bert” Lama, presented a custom pair of boots to U.S. President Harry S. Truman. The boots, named “El Presidente,” were inlaid with gold and silver. In the 1950s, the company began marketing its boots nationally.

In 1961, nearly 50 years after the first store opened, the company moved into larger quarters and began making 750 pairs of boots a day. By the late 1960s, the company moved to a new factory on El Paso’s east side. In 1990, Tony Lama Boots was sold to Justin Industries

Posted by Amy Bond on 27 April, 2015 boot history, Finished leather, justin, nocona, tony lama | 0 comments | Read more →

Justin Boots History

H. J. Justin came to Texas from Lafayette, Indiana in 1879 where he had been a boot repairman.  He settled in the west Texas town of Spanish Fort on the Texas-Oklahoma border.  At this time in the Old West, the ranchers had cattle drives to move the herds to the markets in the East.  During the Civil War most of the men in Texas fought in the war and the cattle were not attended to.  The herds grew in size and freely roamed the State of Texas. When the war ended the state’s only assets were its countless longhorns, for which no markets were available.  Missouri and Kansas had closed their borders to Texas cattle in the 1850’s.  By 1866 cattle in Texas were only worth $4 per head.  In the North and East the same cattle would bring $40 per head. In 1867 O. W. Wheeler built stockyards in Abilene, Kansas.  He encouraged Texas cattlemen to drive their herds to his stockyards.  The Chisholm Trail became the route from ranches in Texas to the Kansas railhead.  The railroads moved the cattle to the eastern markets.  Daddy Joe moved his family next to the Chisholm Trail.    He realized that the cowboys needed tough and protective footwear.  This was different type of footwear from what was needed in Indiana.  The cowboys needed a tall shaft to protect the calf of the leg from the constant contact with the saddle.  The toe needed to be pointed to find the stirrup when they mounted the horse.  The high heel was a safety feature.  It prevented the foot from becoming tangled in the stirrup.  It was the equivalent of today’s seat belt in automobiles.  The leathers available were very soft.  To provide a stiffer shaft the boot-makers would stitch a pattern on the boot’s shaft.  They quickly learned a decorative stitch would sell better to their customers to young and brash cowboys. 

When the cowboys came to town on the cattle drives, Daddy Joe would measure their feet for custom crafted western boots.  He hand made every pair of boots.  Daddy Joe did not have stock boots and the cowboys did not have the money to pay for the boots as they drove the cattle down the trail to the new railroad.  With their measurements Daddy Joe would begin the process of hand crafting the cowboys boots and the cowboys would continue up the Chisholm Trail to deliver the cattle. 

When the cowboys delivered the herd they received the payment for their services on the cattle drive.  Now they had the money to pay for their boots.  As they made their way down the Chisholm Trail back home they would pick up their boots from Daddy Joe Justin. 

This lasted until 1887.  In that year the railroad came through Nocona, Texas, just south of Spanish Fort.  Daddy Joe moved his family and business to Nocona, Texas, for better shipping facilities. 

Posted by Amy Bond on 13 April, 2015 boot history, justin, nocona, tony lama | 0 comments | Read more →

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