Member: National Bit, Spur & Saddle Collector's Association and Texas Longhorn Breeders Association of America
Item #B780 SOLD
About The Bit:
This is a vintage Garcia #78 bit made by Les Garcia in Elko, Nevada at the J. M. Capriola shop. The workmanship is excellent.
The bit is marked GARCIA / ELKO, NEV. [not the G. S. GARCIA / ELKO, NEV.]
This bit measures 5 and 1/2 inches wide by 8 inches long. The Santa Barbara style cheek is 2 and 1/4 inches in diameter. A beautiful piece!
About 'Garcia' Spurs and Bits at J.M. Capriola Co.:
After the passing of their father, G. S. Garcia, in 1933, and the effects of the Depression, Les Garcia and his brother Henry decided that there were more opportunities to grow the business outside of the small town of Elko. They settled on Salinas, California - about 100 miles south of San Francisco. While Henry left to set up the new shop, Les remained in Elko and continued to manage the business and make bits.
The last spurs marked with the G.S. GARCIA, ELKO NEV. mark was in (G.S. GARCIA, ELKO NEV) was in 1937 when Les closed the Elko shop completely and moved with the rest of the family to Salinas. With the new shop in California, the stamp became: GARCIA / SADDLERY CO. / SALINAS, CALIF.
Les Garcia was the second son of G.S. and Saturnina Garcia, born in Elko, Nevada in 1901. He was mentored in silver engraving by his father's best engraver: Alsalio Herrera. Beginning at the age of 12, Les Garcia was taught the intricacies of silver work and the delicate balance necessary in a good bit. Les was a natural silver smith, although he also learned all aspects of saddle making and the business in general, just as his father had done. In 1928, Les and his older brother, Walter, made a silver saddle to be the prize for the bucking horse champion of the Elko Rodeo. Garcia, proud of his sons and the workmanship they demonstrated in the saddle, said it was "the finest yet". He saw in his son, Les, a great unrealized potential. G. S. took him aside and told him that he knew Les had the talent to make a saddle even better than the gold medal saddle, if he put his mind to it.
The Garcia Family and the Capriola Family had been very friendly rivals in Elko since the opening of the Capriola saddle shop in 1929 by Joseph Martin Capriola. Just as was the case with the Garcia operation, the whole family was involved in making their business a success. Because he did not have a bit maker or engraver, Capriola bought his bits and spurs from G. S. Garcia. After changing hands a few times, the J.M. Capriola saddlery was purchased by the Bear Family.
The Capriola business continued to produce the highest quality saddles and leatherwork, still offering Garcia bits and spurs to their clientele, now being made in the Garcia Shop located in Salinas, CA. Capriola's clients included such luminaries as Ronald Reagan, Jimmy Stewart, and Bing Crosby.
In 1974, as the last surviving child of G.S. Garcia, and a close friend of the Bear Family, Les Garcia sold all the old G.S. embossing plates (which had not been used since the 1930's) and his impressive inventory of bit and spur blanks from the original G.S. Garcia Shop to the J.M. Capriola Shop. He then went to work for Capriola's, making the old style Garcia spurs and bits (including this bit). At that time the spurs and bits made by Les Garcia were stamped GARCIA, instead of the G.S. GARCIA of the early years. More recently, some confusion in the marketplace regarding the similarity of the stamps caused the Capriola Shop to stamp serial numbers on their spurs and bits.
Les Garcia remembered his father's words, spoken to him about 70 years earlier - he stopped bit and spur making and focused on making a single silver saddle to rival that which his father made for the 1904 World's Fair. He called it the American Beauty Rose and it was completed in 1982. Les Garcia died in 1987 at the age of 86.
*Dates, personal facts and conversations, etc.. were used with permission from "Legacy of Silver Saddles: G.S. Garcia to J.M. Capriola Co. 1864 to 2004."
Garcia, Elko, Nev. Capriola Silver Santa Barbara Silver Engraved Bit / Item #B780 SOLD
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Members: National Bit, Spur & Saddle Collector's Association
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