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Old 08-06-2017, 07:18 AM
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A little Texas historical story - A. W. Brill Holsters A little Texas historical story - A. W. Brill Holsters A little Texas historical story - A. W. Brill Holsters A little Texas historical story - A. W. Brill Holsters A little Texas historical story - A. W. Brill Holsters  
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Default A little Texas historical story - A. W. Brill Holsters

Leather goods are not my thing, but I will pass along pertinent parts of a brief article which appeared in the August 2017 edition of Ranch and Rural Living Magazine published every month by our local electric co-op (Rio Grande Electric Co-op) for its members in West Texas. It may be of some interest to holster collectors. It was written about the author's inheritance from a grandfather of group of guns and holsters, among which items were two holsters stamped "A. W. Brill/Maker/Austin, Tex." The present owner did some research and found that "A. W. Brill" was August William Brill, born in Welcome TX in 1872. He moved to Austin around the turn of the 20th Century, where he was listed as a saddle maker and salesman at W. T. Wroe and Sons Saddlery. In 1896, he had a son, Arno William Brill. By 1912, August and son Arno began making holsters (among other leather goods) on their own (possibly having bought out Wroe Saddlery). Their holsters were reported to be popular among Texas Rangers. The A. W. Brill Company operated in Austin until the 1950s selling holsters and leather goods. The Brills also became active in Texas real estate and lakefront property development in the 1940s. Arno's oldest daughter was named Idanell, born in 1919, and was always called Nellie. August Brill died in 1954, followed by Arno Brill in 1968. The interesting part of the story was that in 1940, Nellie marred John Connally, later a long-time and popular Governor of Texas who was in the presidential limousine when John F. Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas, and was himself wounded in the attack.

This is a link to a more complete history of the Brills: A.W. Brill Company History and Maker Marks - www.vintagegunleather.com California

Last edited by DWalt; 08-06-2017 at 07:39 AM.
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Old 08-06-2017, 10:41 AM
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Great info,thanks for sharing.
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Old 08-06-2017, 11:18 AM
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Good information. Thanks for sharing that and I'm impressed that your electric company, even in Texas, was willing to post something about Guns without worrying about offending some customers.

Last edited by Bob L; 08-06-2017 at 11:20 AM.
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Old 08-06-2017, 12:37 PM
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A. W. Brill is quite well known within the leather goods business. Beautifully executed holsters of the single-loop design, frequently hand carved in the floral style, and matching belts and accessories.

Ranger Joaquin Jackson credited Brill for his personal carry rig in the autobiography "One Ranger". Jackson's career as a ranger was during the 1970's to 1990's, so Brill's shop was apparently still in production to that era. I have not heard of anything during more recent years.
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Old 08-06-2017, 04:35 PM
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Originally Posted by LoboGunLeather View Post
A. W. Brill is quite well known within the leather goods business. Beautifully executed holsters of the single-loop design, frequently hand carved in the floral style, and matching belts and accessories.

Ranger Joaquin Jackson credited Brill for his personal carry rig in the autobiography "One Ranger". Jackson's career as a ranger was during the 1970's to 1990's, so Brill's shop was apparently still in production to that era. I have not heard of anything during more recent years.
All indications are that Brill ceased operations in 1955, when August died and Rabensburg retired and Arno was well and truly occupied with Brillville, a fishing resort that opened in 1948 and was well away from Austin on Lake Austin. August sold his (now heritage listed) home to another son in the War years, likely to make the shift to there.

P.S. the Vintage Gun Leather entry on Brill is exceptionally good amongst others that are 'good' and 'not so good' (e.g., A.B. Egland didn't die in 1941, he died in 1951, of tb). It was on their Brill page that I first learnt that Arno had been at S.D. Myres for a year -- the critical year for the development of the Threepersons range of holsters; one of which is a Brill holster.
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Old 08-06-2017, 04:42 PM
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I would love to have a scan of that article, for completeness' sake, but a PM to you 'bounced' because your box is full :-)
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Old 08-06-2017, 07:38 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by DWalt View Post
Their holsters were reported to be popular among Texas Rangers.
I like to think that my one and only A.W. Brill holster was DEFINITELY owned by a Texas Ranger!! That is my story and I am sticking to it!

They do have a really interesting history.
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Old 08-07-2017, 12:14 PM
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If you are driving thru Waco, Texas,,,be sure to stop at the Texas Ranger's Museum!!!
It is easy to find and easy to see a treasure of firearms.
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Old 09-30-2017, 11:04 AM
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I was under the impression that Tol Dawson, a retired TexasRanger, made Jacksons leather.
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Old 09-30-2017, 10:36 PM
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Originally Posted by usmc2427765 View Post
I was under the impression that Tol Dawson, a retired TexasRanger, made Jacksons leather.
And the book cited, One Ranger, would seem to agree with you:

A little Texas historical story - A. W. Brill Holsters-dawson-jpg

(I don't have the book, so had to hunt around a bit w/ my friend mr. google.)
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Old 10-09-2017, 05:57 AM
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Here's a bit of additional -- and new -- information: there appear to have been only two makers of the genuine Brills, that have the Brill mark on the cuff. That is, just two men, each from a different era; and it's possible neither one of them was named Brill.

Reversing into the clues, we have images of a pair of holsters made in 1955 by Rabensburg (not marked Brill). Comparing them with dozens of other known Brills (not the copies by other saddlers of which there were six including Myres), there are those that match the Rabensburgs in every detail; and those that match each other in every detail but none on the Rabensburgs. It is his claim that he invented the holster itself in 1907, at a saddler in Austin that may have been where August Brill was employed: one W.T. Wroe & Sons.

There are ten of these 'markers' and I wonder if anyone could pick them all :-). The first clue is not in the slightest, an obvious one; the obvious ones are on the backside of the holsters. But here it is (compare the circled area in the two images), a subtlety worthy of Sun Tzu:

A little Texas historical story - A. W. Brill Holsters-brill-cuff-4-jpg A little Texas historical story - A. W. Brill Holsters-brill-da-22-jpg

From the front, now one can identify whether a Brill is from after 1930, or before. It is believed that they were made with the Brill name on the cuff only in two eras 1905-1930 and 1930-1955, roughly; and never before or after. We even know why.

There are nine other markers but this is the only one that's needed :-). The other nine are the reason that copies exist of the general appearance of a Brill but none are identical to one. Mine included :-)
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Old 10-09-2017, 08:40 AM
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I am always interested in TX history, and the TX Rangers. I grew up in TX. Thanks for the information.
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Old 10-09-2017, 07:55 PM
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I read that A.W. Brill was Nellie Connolly's father. Her husband, Texas governor John Connolly, was wounded when JFK was shot.

El Paso Saddlery makes a copy of the Brill holster called the Model 1930 Austin. I have one and like it very much. El Paso Saddlery – Custom Leather Holsters & More

Last edited by Texas Star; 10-09-2017 at 07:58 PM.
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