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Walsh No Buckle Harness

from original early twentieth century advertising literature.

When first you become familiar with North American working harness you might come to the erroneous conclusion that, except for minor style variations, all harnesses are much the same. While quality and material issues are accounting for substantive differences in the modern harness, there were also interesting and important variations back in the early twentieth century which many of us today either have forgotten or never knew about. Perhaps the most significant example is the Walsh No Buckle Harness. Journal subscriber, Joe Bittman, loaned us a complete catalog on the Walsh, much of which we reproduce here. I suspect that some of the design issues remembered here might cause discussion or even argument. As my good buddy John Erskine might say “that could be good.”

There is a lot of hyperbole (hype) and sales doggerel in this material which has some historical value. Today we run across very few Walsh harnesses, yet at one time they lay claim to being the world’s largest producer utilizing modern day gimmicks to get their harness into every barn in North America. A Big thank you to Joe Bittman. Hope you enjoy this. LRM

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How a Broken Strap Led to the Invention of Harness Without Buckles

The discovery of the principle of the Walsh No-Buckle Harness came about in a peculiar way. In the fall of 1904, James M. Walsh, a research worker in government departments in Washington, D.C., returned to his father’s farm in Wisconsin for a vacation. A few days after arriving there, while walking across a newly plowed field, his attention was attracted to a piece of harness that was turned up by a plow a few hours before. He picked up the strap and cut it in two with a pocket knife. The leather appeared to be good. He then put the point of the blade under a stitch and pressed it down, thinking, of course, that the decayed thread would at once break. On the contrary, the pressure against the thread broke off the tip of the small blade.

Just then it chanced that a younger brother who was plowing in the field came up. Mr. Walsh asked him this question: “Why isn’t this harness still on a horse, the leather is still good?” To this question the younger brother replied: “Do you think you could make a harness that would last for life?” The inventor then said: “Well, at any rate, I could make one better than this.” This ended the discussion, but instead of throwing away the strap, Mr. Walsh started to examine it carefully. He noticed that one end of the strap had been worn through where it had been wearing on a ring; the other end of the strap had been broken off at a buckle tongue hole; otherwise the strap was in good condition.

It instantly occurred to Mr. Walsh that a practical working harness made without buckles or friction would be much stronger and long lived than harness then in use – such a harness would in fact revolutionize the harness industry. Mr. Walsh then and there resolved to make such a harness. It was not an easy task. Ten years went by during which hundreds of experiments were made before the first perfect harness was put on a team. This was in 1914. The demand for the new harness began at once and grew so rapidly that the Walsh harness factory has had to be enlarged every year to meet the demand for the No-Buckle Harness. Today James M. Walsh is the World’s Largest Harness Maker.

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Why Does Buckle Harness Need Patching So Often and Wear Out So Quickly?

Some will answer that it is due to the poor grade of leather used, or to poor workmanship. Others will say that it is because the harness isn’t taken care of or isn’t cleaned properly. The above answers are partly right – right as far as they go. But they don’t go far enough. They don’t get at the true facts – for they are not the real reasons why buckle harness needs patching every few weeks and wears out so quickly.

Here Are the Two Big Reasons Why Buckle Harness Needs Patching So Often and Wears Out So Quickly

1. Buckles weaken and tear the straps.
2. Friction from rings and dees wears the straps in two.

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Prove It by Your Own Harness

When your harness breaks, nine times out of ten you will find the break at the buckle, or where there is friction from rings or dees.

First, As to Buckles

Let us see what buckles do to weaken and destroy harness. Look at any part of a harness where there is a heavy strain on the strap. You will see that the buckle tongue has begun to tear the strap, perhaps cut almost through the strap. It will tear all the way through sooner or later – and it usually breaks during the rush – just when you can least afford to have a breakdown.

Go out and look at your harness. Nine chances to one, some of the hip straps have already been torn off by the buckle tongues. The straps, except where they have been weakened by the buckle tongues, are still good. How many times have you had straps patched where they were torn off by the buckles? There are dozens of weak spots on your harness; in fact, wherever you find a buckle, there you will find a weak spot.

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Walsh Harness Has No Buckles

No, not one. Buckles do tear and buckles do weaken. Just one buckle will weaken a harness, and there are 68 buckles and 275 buckle holes in the ordinary harness. A new buckle harness with all these buckles and buckle holes has just one-third the strength that it would have without buckles. It has already lost two-thirds of its strength before it ever is used.

Buckles—Friction—are Destroying Every Old Style Harness In Use

Buckles, alone, will do it. Friction, alone, will do it. But, in every old-style harness both buckles and friction are working against your harness – destroying it.

The constant see-saw of a strap against a ring or dee is friction – and friction is bound to cut through the best strap made in a short time.

The picture on the right shows a part of buckle harness breeching. The picture was taken as the owner was taking the harness to the repair shop. It shows just how see-saw friction wears through straps. You will see in this picture, some of your own harness trouble. You will see why you are constantly patching and repairing buckle harness.

Notice how the ring has worn partly through these breeching straps. It will soon wear all the way through. There are 275 places on old-style harness where rings and dees wear through straps.

Walsh Harness does away with friction. Nearly all the repair work that has to be done on buckle harness results from buckle weakening and tearing straps and friction wearing straps in two. There are 275 places on the ordinary harness where friction from rings and dees cuts through straps.
Get rid of buckles and friction and harness repairing will practically stop. In the Walsh there are no buckles – no friction. At every point where rings and dees wear straps, friction has been stopped by the Walsh method of construction. Get rid of buckles and friction and your harness will last a lifetime. That is just what I have done in Walsh-Harness, and that is just why I can sell the Walsh on such a strong binding guarantee.

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See how friction has been stopped on the Walsh. The picture above shows just one point. At every point where rings and dees cut straps, friction has been stopped. There is no friction to wear straps in a Walsh.

No Loops – No Billets

I have already shown you what buckles, holes and friction do to harness straps. Now give a little thought to loops and billets. (Billets are the loose ends of straps that pass through the loops on buckle harness.)

You know how hard a job it is to put a billet through a loop at any time, and especially, when the weather is cold; and you know how billets catch everything. You have put up with the harness that has dozens of billets and loops just because you had to. You couldn’t get any other kind; but now you can. You can get the Walsh harness – the only harness that has no junk on it. Then, too, loops usually have to be sewed on by hand. It is almost impossible to sew them on so they will stay. They are always working loose and tearing off – making frequent repairs necessary.

There Are No “Catchers” on Walsh Harness

Every part of the Walsh harness is smoothly finished. The lines cannot get caught in the fly nets. The fly nets cannot get caught in removing them from the harness. Horses’ tails cannot catch in the breeching. Unsightly and useless billets are not sticking out everywhere around the harness. There are no loops to fall off – no billets to catch lines and fly nets.

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