Yoakum, TX: Western Saddle Central
For the past 100 years there have been two great centers of saddle making in the US – Tennessee and Texas. In this post we’ll take a look at Texas.
The city of Yoakum, Texas is the nerve center of western saddle making. Tex Tan was the first saddle company in Yoakum when they opened in 1919. Why Texas, and particularly, why Yoakum?
You might be thinking that it was because they had a steady demand from the working cowboys, and that certainly played a part. But more crucial was that this was where the supply was for all of the hides required to create the saddles.
In the early 1800’s, the rich Texas grasslands and water around present-day Yoakum was perfect for the exploding cattle business. The area became a staging ground for cattle drives up the Chisholm Trail. With the arrival of the railroad in 1887, a town emerged, named after the railroad manager, Benjamin Franklin Yoakum.
B.F. Yoakum was a creative and smart man. He built Yoakum into a powerful railroad center. More importantly, he’s credited with bringing the new technology of refrigerated boxcars to South Texas in the late 1800s. Now cattlemen could ship refrigerated carcasses rather than live cattle to far flung markets. The result was mountains of raw hides in Yoakum.
Tanneries soon emerged providing a vast supply of tanned hides for all manner of leather goods, including saddles. Today more than a dozen leather goods manufacturers operate out of Yoakum, a town of only 5700 or so. The area has developed a reputation for quality leather and saddle craftsmen.
Yoakum-based saddle companies/brands include: Tex Tan, Circle Y, Reinsman, Tucker Saddlery, Double J
Custom saddle makers based in Yoakum include: Carl Ammerman, Hamman, and Tod Slone
There are also many other saddle brands and makers located throughout Texas including Alamo, Saddle King, Saddlesmith of Texas, Coats, Longhorn