Growing up Western, I cut my teeth on silent cowboy movies as well as the earliest “talkies” on the 7-inch screen of our 1947 television. The Hollywood cowboys that starred in these old films included Harry Carey, Tom Mix, Hoot Gibson, Gwinn “Big Boy” Williams, Tom Tyler, Crash Corrigan, George “Gabby” Hayes, William “Hoppy” Boyd, Roy Rogers, Dale Evans and more.
Being a young “gun nut” on a small California ranch, I not only paid attention to the six-shooters these cowboys were using, but also the holsters that carried them. Some of these were the real things left over from the turn of the century, but many cowboy stars wore fancy rigs. By the time I was 10 I began hearing the name Edward Bohlin as being associated with Hollywood, as well as being one of the finest leather-makers around. Seeing the many silver-mounted Bohlin saddles and tack in the annual Rose Parade in Pasadena left little doubt as to Ed Bohlin’s expertise.
Born in Sweden in 1895, Edward H. Bohlin ran away from home at age 15 and headed for America to become a cowboy. Coming to Montana and Wyoming, young Bohlin learned to ride, rope and repair saddles and other gear. Soon Bohlin learned how to make saddles and the art of silversmithing, and moved to Cody, Wyoming. Around 1920 he met Tom Mix, who convinced him to move to Hollywood to produce his works of art for the Western movie industry.
My good friend, the late Harry “Dobe” Carey, Jr., knew Ed Bohlin well and talked much about him. Dobe had a pair of chaps that Bohlin had made for his father, Harry Carey, Sr. The chaps were made using the hide of a zebra Carey had shot in Africa while making the movie Trader Horn in 1931, and they’re believed to be the only zebra chaps ever made. They were just one of the many Bohlin pieces the elder Carey once owned.
Until he passed on in 1980, Ed Bohlin’s shop had turned out some 12,000 saddles along with magnificent silver-mounted spurs, bits, holsters, guns and even cowboy hats. It is more than fitting that the Happy Trails Children’s Foundation has dedicated its Silver Screen Legend XVII drawing to Edward H. Bohlin, saddle-maker to the stars. This is the 17th year of the foundation, and through the generosity of the renowned Colt’s Manufacturing Company of Hartford, Connecticut, it is presenting very special guns and holsters to raise money for abused children.
Works Of Art
The exquisite engraving of the 4¾-inch-barreled, .45 Colt Single Action Army revolvers, the custom tuning of the sixguns and the magnificent silver spots, conchas and buckle sets on the belt and holsters were provided by master engraver Conrad Anderson of Rocktree Ranch. Bob Leskovec of Precision Pro Grips handcrafted the genuine, pre-ban elephant ivory grips on the revolvers from ivory donated by David Warther II of David Warther Carvings in Sugar Creek, Ohio. These Colts are not mere movie props, but the real thing. I doubt, however, that they will ever again be fired after having been proof-tested at the Colt factory.
My friend, Jim Lockwood, of Legends In Leather, crafted the impeccable hand-carved, Sterling silver-mounted double holster rig in the style of Ed Bohlin’s original parade/presentation outfits, and Ron Love made and donated the prop .45 Colt cartridges. All of these wonderful folks are enduring examples of that very special American spirit known as “the cowboy way.” Ed Bohlin would be proud!
Renowned Western entertainers Roy Rogers and Dale Evans spent a lifetime devoted to children, and their support of at-risk children is well documented. The Happy Trails Children’s Foundation is proud to carry on the work with abused children who were so important to Roy and Dale, but they need your help.
As a result of its association with Roy and Dale, and the positive and wholesome family values and American traditions they represented, the Happy Trails Children’s Foundation is the only known children’s charity in the country that actively supports shooting sports, Second Amendment rights and responsible gun ownership, and is in turn supported by generous contributions from shooters, collectors, organized shooting sports and the firearms industry. The foundation is proud of this unique partnership.
Related Stories: Famous Walk & Draw Leather Rigs Of Hollywood
Chances To Win
You can order your tickets today for a chance to win this phenomenal, unique, museum-quality, one-of-a-kind cowboy collectible. Tickets are $10 each, or you can buy 11 tickets for $100. The drawing for the Silver Screen Legend XVII will be held on December 13, 2014, but you don’t have to be present to win. The winner will be notified by phone, and you can check the Happy Trails website for the winner’s name following the drawing.
All of the proceeds from this drawing benefit the Happy Trails Children’s Foundation for abused children, a charitable non-profit organization under section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code. All donations are fully tax deductible to the extent allowed by law. In accordance with postal regulations, no consideration is necessary to participate in this drawing. For more information, visit happytrails.org or call 760-240-3330. ✪
This article originally published in the Winter 2015 issue of GUNS OF THE OLD WEST®, print and digital subscriptions to GUNS OF THE OLD WEST are available here.