JR McChesney Spurs
J.R. McChesney is one of the most well know bit and spur makers ever to swing a hammer. McChesney was born in Plymouth, Indiana in 1868 and even attended Notre Dame for two years. McChesney’s family moved westward into Arkansas and then into Indian Territory in what is not Oklahoma. J.R. then opened a blacksmith shop. He stayed busy eventually got into making bits and spurs custom for local cowboys. It is said that McChesney was the first to make one piece spurs from metal taken off farm equipment and axles. The one-piece spur quickly became the predominant style in Texas as the spurs were strong and durable without a joint that had the potential to fail between the heel band and shank. Whether or not McChesney actually invented the one-piece spur isn’t really important, but his legend and popularity grew as a bit and spur maker. He moved to Gainesville, Texas around 1890 due to a drought that killed off much of his business in Indian Territory. In Gainesville, J.R. McChesney built up another blacksmith business and did general blacksmith work in addition to the bit and spur making. At some point during this period G.A. Bischoff either worked for or with McChesney, the amount of time and details of their collaboration are unclear. After a period of time in Gainesville, McChesney moved again to Pauls Valley, Oklahoma in 1909 after the town offered to help him move his business there in addition to providing land for his new factory. At his Pauls Valley shop McChesney eventually employed as many as 50 people at the McChesney Bit and Spur Company. Many other famous makers would spend time working for McChesney at this location including: Clyde Parker, P.M. Kelly, and Tom Johnson among others. McChesney was supplying bits and spurs for his own catalog as well as producing items for C.P. Shipley at this time. McChesney continued to run the business until his death in 1928 at the age of 60.
McChesney is probably most famous for his gal-leg design which some people claim he invented, though most historians dispute that fact. His bits and spurs are varied in design though and can be found with many other designs such as animals, plants, flowers, geometric designs and many more. His work is almost never marked with the exception of some very early pieces. McChesney said he believed the quality of his work was all the mark he needed. Some of the most collectible McChesney designs include peacock, snake, bull, and gal-leg designs that used synthetic gemstones in red, blue and green to accentuate and embellish the designs. There are also several patterns that were made as bit and spur sets that are very popular among collectors. Finally, in addition to a huge variety of rowels offered to buyers, McChesney also offered customers the ability to upgrade to locking rowels for a mere 50 cents.
Locations: Broken Arrow, Indian Territory (Oklahoma) -> Gainesville, Texas -> Pauls Valley, Oklahoma
Markings: Almost all pieces are unmarked, early work can be found with his arm and hammer logo
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