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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




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.


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.


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.


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.




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.

I received a great many compliments on the high grade leather used in Walsh Harness. Buyers tell me they never saw such good leather in harness. If you took all the loops and billets off your old-style buckle harness, and laid them out end to end, you would be surprised at the length of the strap those pieces would make. That good leather which is wasted in the old-style outfit is used in the Walsh to give you stronger and better harness.

The Walsh Is Easy to Adjust

Every team owner knows that it is a tough job to change an old-fashioned harness to fit a larger or smaller horse. When the leather is old or hard, or when the weather is cold, it is almost impossible to get the billets out of the loops, or pull the buckle tongues out of the holes. This accounts for the fact that 19 out of 20 old-fashioned harnesses do not fit the horses they are on.

The changes that have to be made in the Walsh Harness to fit different sized horses are so simple, that a child can make them. If you wish to adjust the harness when the weather is cold, you can do so. It can be done as easily when it is 100 in the shade. The weather does not matter. Neither does it matter if the Walsh harness is old, and has never been oiled.


A 50 Year Success

The Walsh Strap holder is an improvement on an old idea in harness making which has been in use for over fifty years in the New England States. In the mountains of New England, farmers have for years used a style of harness called a “side-backer,” on which a strap holder is used instead of buckles. The hills are steep and the loads heavy – so a hold-back strap that could be depended upon was an absolute necessity. Straps with buckles would not do, so a simple strap holder was devised – one that gave the full strength of the strap, and positively held any strap under the greatest strain without slipping, yet was easily adjusted. The Walsh Strap Holder is an improvement on this time tried and tested strap holder.

The Walsh Strap Holder has been tried and tested under all kinds of conditions, and has never been known to slip a fraction of an inch. No matter if the strap is new or old, thin or thick, wet or dry, hard or soft, or greasy, it always holds with a positive hold that cannot slip. I positively guarantee that no strap will slip during the lifetime of the harness.








Adjustable to Fit Perfectly any Size Work Horse or Mule

These Pictures and Letter from a Walsh user Tell the Story

Wentzville, Mo.
June 7, 1924

Dear Sir:
I am sending two pictures of Walsh Harness. I have the harness on a pair of mares and again on a pair of small mules. It took me just ten minutes to change the harness to fit the small mules.
Yours truly,
A.S. Weber

Walsh Harness adjusted from large to small team in ten minutes

Mr. A. S. Weber sent these pictures to show how well the Walsh can be adjusted to fit large or small team of horses or mules.

While exhibiting the Walsh harness at fairs and expositions in various parts of the country during the past several years, the same harness was used on many different sizes of horses. Yet it was adjusted so exactly to fit every team that many were heard to say, “That harness was made to order for that team.” They had good reasons to think so, for the Walsh Harness fits so neatly that it appears to be made to order for any team.

The whole upper part of the Walsh Harness rests on the fleshy parts of the horse – not on the bones and joints. Moreover, it is so made that the straps cannot shift so as to rub on the back or hip bones. Notice any old-style breeching – compare it with the Walsh. Mark well the difference.

A Walsh Harness will greatly increase the value of your team. Many owners have written to me stating that their neighbors thought they had new teams when they first used a Walsh Harness. It is really surprising how the Walsh improves the appearance of any team. It is a lifetime harness, handsome and substantial. The absence of frills, the freedom from unnecessary parts, from buckles, rings, holes, loops, billets, etc. adds to the appearance of the harness.

With a Walsh on your team you can drive anywhere and feel that you have the best harnessed team there. A good looking, well fitted harness always creates a favorable impression. It stamps the owner as a good farmer and a man of high standing in his community. If the Walsh Harness had no other advantages over the old-style harness than its good looks, it would still be the world’s best harness.



Walsh Trace


Traces are the most important part of a harness. Therefore, you may be sure that the Walsh trace is the strongest, most powerful trace that it is possible to make.

The very fact that I have produced a trace which stands up so remarkably well under the most severe use possible to give it, by thousands of users scattered over the entire United States, is proof that the Walsh trace will give more service and wear than any other trace that you could buy. Under my positive guaranteed to replace defective parts, you can understand why it is so important for me to furnish you a trace that will stand any test that it may ever be put to.

In selecting leather for traces there is only one sure way to know that only the best – the strongest straps are used. First the leather must be tested. Even leather experts, with years of experience, are not always able to pick out the strongest pieces. But a machine test for strength will absolutely show them up. You can’t fool a testing machine. Walsh traces are cut from the backs of the best hides where the leather is toughest and strongest. Every trace is made up of three layers, lock stitched with best quality Irish Linen thread, and reinforced at each end with solid copper rivet.

A $38,000.00 Flexible Trace Clip

After the leather, the most important thing in a trace is the method of fastening the trace to the hames. No matter how good the leather may be, it can easily be ruined by the method of attaching the trace to the hames.

Study picture above. It shows a wrapped trace and Walsh flexible trace-clip – the strongest – the most durable construction known. Notice how the ends of the traces are wrapped around the bolt – not riveted on. Notice how flexible the clip is. Could anything be more simple, yet so powerful and strong.

To put the wrapped end trace and Walsh flexible trace clip, as shown on opposite page, on harness, costs $38,000 extra each year. But – it assures years of extra service for every Walsh Trace. It is the strongest, most durable method of attaching traces to the hames and it is the only method that doesn’t injure or weaken the trace. And yet – you don’t find such a costly, strong, durable trace-clip even on harness sold at a much higher price than the Walsh.

You may ask, “Why not use the ordinary clip- it’s flexible and it’s cheaper?”

You are right. It is flexible and I can get it for less money, but – this clip is attached to the trace by rivets. Rivets and rivet holes tear just like buckle tongues and buckle holes. It is well known that a trace with a riveted clip nearly always tears out at the rivet. The Walsh wrapped end trace and flexible trace clip gives you the full strength of the trace and is more flexible than any other clip.

Photo of Walsh Flexible Clip showing straight pull on trace at any angle. No see-saw wear on leather.

See how the leather is worn by friction of bolt.

Photograph of trace wrapped directly around bolt of hame. Trace pulls at angle and bolt will wear through even strongest leather.

Every Trace Broke at Rivet

To find out just how much stronger, more durable the Walsh Clip is than the ordinary clip, I made up a number of traces, put a Walsh Clip on one end and an ordinary riveted clip on the other and had them tested for strength. The record and the picture tell the story. Every trace broke at the rivet.

The Worlds’ Strongest — Safest Breeching

The purpose of the breeching is to back a load or to hold it from going down hill too fast. If a horse could talk, he would say that the back of his neck is not intended to back up the load. Neither are the backs of his front legs intended for that purpose.

The higher up the breeching, the better the horse can back the load. Nine times out of ten, the breeching is too low. The horses knows when his footing is not safe. The further down the breeching is, the less the horse can back and the more danger there is that he may slip. Moreover, a low breeching makes a horse nervous.

But to have the breeching well up is not enough. The shape of the horse is such that there should be another strap besides the breeching body to aid in backing. That strap should pass over the rump. When a breeching is thus made the horse can back with his full strength – can stand up while he is doing it. He is not worked into a nervous condition with the fear that his hind feet may slip, as he is when backing with the ordinary breeching as you have, no doubt, often noticed.

The breeching in the old-style harness can be adjusted by taking eight billets out of sixteen loops, then unfastening eight buckles, which is always very hard to do. The breeching can then be raised or lowered, if all the holes are present, which is, unfortunately, seldom the case. The chances are that some slight strain has broken one or more of the lead-up straps at the buckle holes, and one or more of the holes has been covered up by patching.

In cold weather it is next to impossible to adjust any part of the old-style harness, and in summer, the busy season for farmers, the breeching of the old-style harness is almost never adjusted. Is it not a fact that the only things that your breeching, buckles, holes, loops and billets do are catch lines, fly nets, horses’ tails, and dirt?

The Walsh Breeching is easily and quickly raised or lowered by merely adjusting the back straps. I have simply taken advantage of the fact that nature made the rump of the horse curved in shape. Notice there is a decided upward curve from the horse’s tail to the top of the hips. Now you can see that when you shorten the back straps the breeching and rump strap will move upwards, as they are connected directly to the back straps, and will drop down as you lengthen the back straps. The breeching cannot slide straight forward as in the old style, but must move both forward and up on account of the rump strap as shown in the illustration. If the back straps are lengthened, the breeching will be lowered. This is the simplest, easiest and best way ever devised for adjusting a breeching, and you will agree with me on this point the minute you try it. For in this manner of adjusting, and in this matter only, can the whole breeching be set on exactly where it best fits the shape of the horse, and where it can best do what it is intended to do – not HALF do it.

No line, no fly net, and no horse’s tail will ever catch in the breeching of a Walsh Harness. It is like all other parts of the harness – smoothly finished, free from faults, and three times stronger than the old buckle breeching.

Examine any old-style breeching which has been in use a few years and you will find nine times out of ten that the lead-up strap castings have pulled out. Once those castings are jerked loose from the breeching, it is almost impossible to sew them back in place again so they will stay.

Those castings in old-style harness are held in place by merely sewing them between the layers of the breeching. The strain at this point is too great for any thread to hold and the casting is bound to be pulled out in a short time. As said before, every weakness in old-style harness has been taken out of the Walsh, and here again you find another big improvement, I fasten these castings through the breeching body.

Note how the lead-up strap fastener is securely anchored to the breeching itself. It is impossible to tear it loose from the breeching. Think of the repair bills this item alone will save. In the Walsh Harness you get all these features which you can plainly see will cut out repair expense, and give you a stronger, longer lasting harness, yet the Walsh costs less than old-style harness of same grade material.

The Walsh breeching can be taken apart in a minute for cleaning by simply unhooking the lead-up straps. The side straps, lazy straps and lead-up straps can also be quickly and easily removed from the breeching. In fact, all parts of the Walsh harness are perfectly simple – nothing complicated about the entire harness. You will be surprised at its entire simplicity when you see it on your team.

Quickly Adjusted to Fit Any Collar Perfectly

No farmer or teamster will say he can properly tighten a pair of hames with a hame strap. But until the Walsh Harness was perfected, nothing better was to be had.
In the Walsh Harness no lower hame straps are used. Neither is any so-called patent hame fastener used. The Walsh patents at this part of the harness pertain to hames, not to hame fasteners.

The Walsh Hames cannot be broken by any strain a horse can put upon them. They should last at least or 40 years. They are much easier and quicker to take off, put on and adjust, than hames used on buckle harness.

Old-Style Hame Straps Out of Date

The lower hame strap used on old-style harness is ill-fitting, clumsy, short-lived and expensive. In these respects the old-style upper hame is not far behind, and is, in fact, worse in one other respect – it is harder to adjust.

Did you ever put a harness on a horse and find the hames adjusted too short or too long for the collar? Many times. To get the right fit did you ever try to adjust the upper hame strap without taking off the harness? Yes. Sometimes you could, but at any rate you found that the best thing to do was to take harness off, put the strap where you thought it ought to be, and put the harness back on the horse – but you no sooner had it on, than you may have had to take it off again – you may not have guessed right. It is a fact, is it not, that you have to guess at what hame loops and what buckle hole to use? It is well within the truth to say that nine out of every ten upper hame straps are not adjusted properly because, to fit them right, is not only disagreeable, but next to impossible. The construction of the Walsh Hames has put an end to all this difficulty.

Walsh Hames can be quickly adjusted to fit perfectly any size collars. The change can be made form one size collar to another in about one minute.

A Walsh Harness may be put on a horse and the hames may be adjusted without taking the harness off the horse. It takes about a minute to adjust the hames to fit the collar, no matter what size or shape it may be – and remember – adjusted to fit, not half fit.

Lighter Yet Stronger Than Wooden Hames

The Walsh Hame is more lasting than any other hame made, yet if you put it on a scale and compare its weight with that of any wooden hame, you will find that the Walsh weighs no more than the wooden hame. Test the two for strength, however, and you will find the Walsh much stronger.

Walsh Bridles

Measure your horses’ head and you will find they are all about the same size from the eyes up, regardless of the size of the horses’ heads. That is, measure from one eye up to the center of the head, back of the ear. You will not find more than one inch difference in any two horses; therefore, no adjustment is necessary to fit the blinds when changing the bridles from one horse to another.

The principal difference in the size of horses’ heads is in the jaw (from the eye down) and around the throat. A Walsh Bridle can be quickly fitted to the head of any horse by simply adjusting the throat strap and adjusting the bit. I provide adjustments only where adjustments are needed, and no adjustments where none is needed.

Take any buckle bridle, the best on the market, compare it side by side with the Walsh, and you will say that the Walsh is indeed a great improvement, a big step forward in harness making. No other bridle on the market, no matter how much you pay for it, can compare with the Walsh for strength, durability, ease in taking off and putting on. It is a good looking bridle, neat, attractive, and makes the team look snappy.

The bridles on an old-style harness (like the trousers of a suit of clothes) wear out first. The bridles should last as long as the harness. The Walsh Bridles will, because they have no buckles to tear – no rings to wear the straps.

Examine your old buckle bridle. See how the bit rings have worn ends of the cheeks straps. No doubt you have had these patched. There is no chance for bit rings to wear on Walsh cheek straps. You have been shown how buckles weaken straps, and will now understand why old-style buckle bridles always need patching at the cheek strap buckle, just below the brow band. Look at the cheek strap in Walsh Bridles, built like a tug, tow-ply stitched, without a buckle to weaken or tear it.

Winker braces are always being torn away from the blinds on buckle bridles, but you will have no such trouble with Walsh Bridles. The winker braces on Walsh are not merely sewed to the blind, as in ordinary harness, but are sewed into a metal loop which is riveted to the metal lining of the blind, therefore, can’t pull out.

The bit is easily and quickly adjusted to fit any horse or mule by simply letting out or taking up the bit chain. The bit chain is strong, durable, flexible, easy to adjust, and good looking. Notice the neat way in which the extra links are held in place.

The throat latch is a feature of the Walsh Bridle you will appreciate every time you use the harness. One quick twist of the wrist and it is unfastened or fastened – no buckles, billets or loops to both with. You can fasten or unfasten it in an instant in the dark or with your mittens on. The throat latch is adjustable to fit perfectly any horse. The check rein is also adjustable and can be removed from the bit ring if desired. Either straight or jointed bits furnished as desired, but any special style bit you may require can be used.

Walsh Lines

Every driver likes the feel of a good strong pair of lines. He wants to be sure his lines will hold in any emergency. Walsh lines are cut from sides of leather which have been especially selected for lines only. Here again is where a large buyer of leather has the advantage over the small harness shop – when I buy leather I select the best suited for the purpose for which it is to be used, some for lines, some for traces, etc., while the small harness maker must take the general run of leather just as it comes, and make the best of it.

Walsh experts select leather for lines which is extra tough, firm, and of fine texture. When you take hold of Walsh lines, you will know at once that they are made of high grade leather, the best that can be tanned.

You will like the way the Walsh snap is fastened to the lines – it is such a smooth, neat job. The cumbersome buckle with its loops and billets is entirely done away with, yet the snap can be easily replaced in case a snap or spring breaks.

The cross line adjustment in Walsh lines is very simple and easy to regulate. There are no loose ends to catch in the flynet. The standard Walsh lines are 20 feet long and 1 inch wide, but wider and longer lines may be had if wanted.

Walsh Breast Straps and Martingales

Plenty of adjustment is provided for Walsh breast straps by the two links which hang from the hames, into either of which the breast strap is snapped. In buckle harness the iron rings dig holes in the collars while the links used on Walsh harness are so formed that they do not dig in or wear collars.

For long life, strength and simplicity, the Walsh improvements on the breast straps and martingales have no equal in any other harness.

In mountain States, teamsters want a martingale and breast strap they can depend upon when going down the many steep hills. The Walsh meets their approval as it gives a feeling of strength and security because they have no buckles to weaken the straps, no rings to wear ends of straps in two, and a neckyoke holder that has no equal for strength.

Note how the martingale is attached directly to the breast strap slide. The breast strap slide itself is formed into a loop at the rear into which is sewed the martingale. A Walsh designed ferrule as used in Walsh traces keeps all wear off the end of martingale where it is sewed over the loop.

The breast strap snap is bolted to the slide. This snap is made extra heavy and strong and fitted with Walsh renewable spring. When spring breaks or weakens, a new spring can be easily put in its place.