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The history of the western buckle as we know it is predominately a Twentieth Century one. Prior to 1900 most common buckles resembled large shoe buckles or military types.
From 1900 to the beginning of the 1920's there were few trophy and ranger style western buckles apparently produced by custom shops. It wasn't until the movie industry created the popular western heros that ornate western buckles, saddles etc. gained a widespread popularity.
About this time, the early twenties, a number of west coast companies started to produce in quantity fancy sterling and gold buckles. Edward H. Bohlin, Michael Srour, John McCabe, Keyston Bros., and R. Schaezlein were among those catering to the new demands not only of the Hollywood elite but of the public in general. Companies in other parts of the country soon followed suit. Texas names such as Hollands, Nelson Co., R.W. Driskell and Graves Malone amongÂ others started a little later in the 1930's. The popularity of these companies or their successors continues to this day.
Today it's hard to even find a man of the west that is not wearing either a trophy or ranger style buckle set. In many cases it's one that has been won or handed down through the generations as a family heirloom. Many a cowboy's proudest possession is that buckle won after years of pain and hard work in the rodeo arena or the buckle that grandpa wore. And no, it's not for sale at any price.
The western buckle as we know it today is uniquely American, a part of our heritage and beginning to be recognized for the art form it truly is.