Horsehair Bridles, A Unique American Folk Art

9780965994781: Horsehair Bridles, A Unique American Folk Art

This book traces the origins of the folk art of hitching horsehair, and how it flourished in the prisons of the west between 1890 and 1930. In this large format book with about 500 stunning images, the reader will learn to identify the distinct styles of each of the 12 prisons, and appreciate some of the individuals who influenced the creation and sale of these beautiful pieces.

It also illustrates the preparation, dyeing and hitching of the horsehair, and differentiates between hitching and braiding, or plaiting, the fibers in order to make cheek straps, brow pieces and reins of a bridle.

Most of the book is focused on prison-made pieces, but the last two chapters deal with those made elsewhere. Winfield Coleman authored a chapter on the Indian Uses of Horsehair which go far beyond the creation of bridles. The final chapter describes and pictures the work of talented, often self-taught, contemporary makers of hitched horsehair items.

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About the Author:

Ned and Jody Martin have written three books documenting the history and regional styles of cowboy bit and spur makers, followed by three volumes depicting the colorful horse gear used by Native American tribes. With this book, they return to the cowboy genre.

Ned is a professional photographer and a collector of Indian bridles as well as those made of horsehair. Jody is the writer and organizer of the team. Hawk Hill Press is their own publishing company.


This coffee-table book takes a close look at the distinctive American folk art of hitched horsehair, which developed in prisons throughout the West during the 1890s. Originally a way to keep prisoners focused and help them make a profit, the process became a way for them to express their creativity and individuality in stunning designs.

The Martins explain the preparation, dyeing and hitching of horsehair, and cover each of the 12 prisons where the art developed, and the differences in styles among them.

The authors spent eight years researching and photographing for this volume, and their attention to detail is seen in the lavish photos, detailed descriptions and thorough text. The book is a feast for the eyes and an enjoyable history lesson. --Western Horseman Magazine March 2016

For many years, one of the most under-researched areas of Western cultural history has been the braiding and hitching of horsehair. Source identification of the various styles and designs of cowboy headstalls, belts, fobs, hatbands, and other such items has largely been a matter of limited knowledge, and a lot of guesswork_ until now. In their new book, Horsehair Bridles, A Unique American Folk Art, Ned and Jody Martin have done yeoman service to both the modern and historic field of woven horsehair.

Visually, the book is spectacular. Ned Martin's photography is highly professional, and the pages blaze with vibrant colors. The examples he has chosen to highlight come from some of th4e country's finest collections, and the detail is all that the reader could wish.

But it is in the scholarship itself that the book makes its greatest contribution to the world of western memorabilia.Martin has identified twelve late 19th to early 20th century western prisons whose inmates turned out horsehair products. some are more familiar to collectors than others, and, although there was some inevitable crossover, each institution had its own distinct styles of color and design.

The book is highly readable as well as scholarly...and there are many stories of prisoners that bring the world of horsehair crafting too life.In the last chapter, the reader is introduced to a handful of modern hitchers, including the highly regarded alfredo Campos, whose intricate work reflects the acme of hrosehair artistry. All in all, Horsehair Bridles makes a welcome addition to the library of every collector of cowboy artifacts, and every student of Western material culture. --By Ron Soodalter, American Cowboy Magazine April 2016

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Ned Martin, Jody Martin
ISBN 10: 0965994783 ISBN 13: 9780965994781
New Hardcover Quantity Available: 2
Collector Bookstore
(Leavenworth, KS, U.S.A.)

Book Description 2016. Hard Cover with dust jacket. Book Condition: New. Collector Bookstore is a retailer of new books located in Leavenworth, Kansas. We specialize in price guides and reference books for the antiques and collectibles industry. After ten years of research, the authors have published the history of the development of horsehair hitching. This unique American folk art evolved in the bleakest of environments: the prisons of the West. The book includes stunning color photos of 200 bridles from public and private collections. Most of the book will focus on the beautiful and colorful bridles made of horsehair; but there are also images of hatbands, belts, quirts, canes, reatas and other miscellaneous pieces made by inmates. Two chapters deal with horsehair pieces that were made outside of the prisons: one by Winfield Coleman, illustrates the Indian Uses of Horsehair which go far beyond the creation of bridles; another ends the book with a description of work by talented, often self-taught, contemporary makers. This book also illustrates the preparation, dyeing and hitching of the horsehair. It differentiates between hitching and braiding or plaiting the fibers in order to make cheek straps, brow pieces and reins of a bridle. The beautiful decorative rosettes could be made of horsehair needle knots, or crystals, or engraved German silver. They were sold in an endless variety of shapes and sizes all pictured here. Bookseller Inventory # HHP-2016-9780965994781-X16

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