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Small Farmer's Journal
PO Box 1627
Sisters, Oregon 97759
800-876-2893
541-549-2064
agrarian@smallfarmersjournal.com
Mon - Thu, 8am - 4pm PDT

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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Spotlight On: Livestock

The Equine Eye

The Equine Eye

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The horse’s head is large, with eyes set wide apart at the sides of his head; he seldom sees an object with both eyes at the same time and generally sees a different picture with each eye. In the wild, this double vision was a big advantage, making it difficult for a predator to sneak up on him. He can focus both eyes to the front to watch something, but it takes more effort. Only when making a concentrated effort to look straight ahead does the horse have depth perception as we know it.

Littlefield Notes Making Your Horses Work For You Part 2

LittleField Notes: Making Your Horses Work For You Part 2

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Every beginning horse farmer at some point will find himself in need of procuring that first team. After land, this is certainly one of the most critical purchasing decisions you will make in the development of the farm. The animals you choose can make your farming glow and hum with moments of blissful certainty, or contribute to frustration, bewilderment, loss of resolve, and God forbid, horses and people hurt and machines wrecked.

Portable Poultry

Portable Poultry

An important feature of the range shelter described in this circular is that it is portable. Two men by inserting 2x4s through the holes located just below the roost supports and next to the center uprights can easily pick up and move it from one location to another. Frequent moving of the shelter prevents excessive accumulation of droppings in its vicinity which are a menace to the health of the birds. Better use will be made by the birds of the natural green feed produced on the range if the houses are moved often.

The Milk and Human Kindness Caring For The Pregnant Cow

The Milk and Human Kindness: Caring for the Pregnant Cow

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Good cheese comes from happy milk and happy milk comes from contented cows. So for goodness sake, for the sake of goodness in our farming ways we need to keep contentment, happiness and harmony as primary principles of animal husbandry. The practical manifestations of our love and appreciation are what make a small farm. Above and beyond the significant requirements of housing, feed and water is the care of your cow’s emotional life, provide for her own fulfillment. Let her raise her calf!

New York Organic Grazing Dairy

New York Organic Grazing Dairy

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Our farm, here in the center of New York State, consists of 101 acres, about 90 in grass, the rest some woods and swamp. It is inhabited by forty-six jersey cows, twelve breeding ace heifers, one bull, and because it is calving season — an increasing number of calves. Also, four Belgian mares and a couple of buggy horses. Last, and possibly least — the farmer, farmer’s wife, and five grown children.

American Milking Devons and the Flack Family Farm

American Milking Devons and the Flack Family Farm

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On a sunny early September day I met Doug Flack at his biodynamic and organic farm, just South of Enosburg Falls. Doug is an American Milking Devon breeder with some of the best uddered and well behaved animals I have seen in the breed. The animals are beautifully integrated into his small and diversified farm. His system of management seems to bring out the best in the animals and his enthusiasm for Devon cattle is contagious.

Hay Making with a Single Horse Part 1

Hay Making with a Single Horse Part 1

by:
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For the last ten years, I have made hay mostly with a single horse. This has not necessarily been out of choice, as at one time I had hoped to be farming on a larger scale with more horses. Anyway, it does little good to dwell on ‘what if ’. The reality is that I am able to make hay, and through making and modifying machinery, I probably have a better understanding of hay making and the mechanics of draught.

Mule Powered Wrecker Service

Mule Drawn Wrecker Service

This will only add fuel to those late night discoursians about the relative merits of horses over mules or viciversy. Is the horse the smarter one for hitching a ride or is the mule the smarter one for recognizing the political opportunity which this all represents? In any event these boys know what they are doing, or should, so don’t try this at home without horse tranquilizers. Remember that politics is a luke warm bowl of thin soup.

Ask A Teamster Hauling Horses

Ask A Teamster: Hauling Horses

For a claustrophobic animal like the horse, being confined to a small box while speeding down the highway at 60 miles per hour is a mighty unnatural experience. Luckily, equines are adaptable animals and are likely to arrive in good condition – if – you make preparations beforehand and take some precautions. Here are some tips to help your horse stay healthy, safe, and comfortable while traveling.

Ask A Teamster Horse Don't Won't Can't Turn

Ask A Teamster: Horse Don’t, Won’t, Can’t Turn

After moving the drop ring on the other side down we went out to the round pen for a test drive. The difference in how she ground drove and turned was amazing – not perfect, but real sweet. With the lines at that level a right turn cue on the line obviously meant go right to her, and a left turn cue meant left. After we drove around for a while with me smiling I couldn’t resist moving the drop rings back up to the line rings – Bam, back to the old confusion.

Chicken

The Best Chicken Pie Ever

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She has one more gift to give: Chicken Pie.

The Brabants Farm

The Brabants’ Farm

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The Brabants’ Farm is a multi purpose farming operation whose main goal is to promote “horsefarming.” Our philosophy is to support the transformation of regional conventional agriculture and forestry into a sustainable, socially responsible, and less petroleum dependent based agriculture, by utilizing animal drawn technology (“horsefarming”), and by meeting key challenges in 21st century small scale agriculture and forestry in Colombia and throughout South America.

Ask A Teamster Ten Common Wrecks With Driving Horses

Ask A Teamster: Ten Common Wrecks with Driving Horses

One of the things I’ve learned over time is that the truly great teamsters rarely – if ever – have upset horses, close calls, mishaps or wrecks, while the less meticulous horsemen often do. Even though it may take a few minutes longer, the master teamsters constantly follow a series of seemingly minute, endlessly detailed, but always wise safety tips. Here are 10 of them:

Work Horse Handbook

The Work Horse Handbook

The decision to depend on horses or mules in harness for farm work, logging, or highway work is an important one and should not be taken lightly. Aside from romantic notions of involvement in a picturesque scene, most of the considerations are serious.

Shoeing Stocks

An article from the out-of-print Winter 1982 Issue of SFJ.

Work Horse Handbook

Grooming Work Horses

The serviceability of the work horse may be increased or decreased according to the care which is bestowed upon him. If he is groomed in a perfunctory fashion his efficiency as an animal motor is lessened. On the other hand, if he is well groomed he is snappier and fresher in appearance and is constantly up on the bit.

A Greenhorn Tries Draft Horses

A Greenhorn Tries Draft Horses

by:
from issue:

We have tried a workhorse, and for our needs he has proven quite satisfactory as well as satisfying to use. Thus we feel it is possible for someone with little or no experience to learn to care for and use a horse or a team for farm and woods work, although, obviously, this is not a process to be undertaken lightly. One of the basic aims of the farm operation for us is self-sufficiency, and we thought that the horse would be more efficient than a tractor in achieving this aim.

Icelandic Sheep

Icelandic Sheep

by:
from issue:

I came to sheep farming from a background in the arts – with a passion for spinning and weaving. When we were able to leave our house in town to buy our small farm, a former dairy operation, I had no idea that the desire to have a couple of fiber animals would turn into full time shepherding. I had discovered Icelandic sheep, and was completely enamored of their beauty, their hardiness and their intelligence.

Small Farmer's Journal

Small Farmer's Journal
PO Box 1627
Sisters, Oregon 97759
800-876-2893
541-549-2064
agrarian@smallfarmersjournal.com
Mon - Thu, 8am - 4pm PDT