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Invest in Precious Metals the Fun - Western Way !
This saddle was made by Karl's of Seattle. "Karl" L. Raab bought out
renowned silversmith Don Ellis in 1949; and named the shop "Karl's of
Seattle." The Don Ellis Shop is famous for the "Wes Williams Saddle" with the
50 pounds of silver on it that is on display at the National Cowboy & Western
Heritage Museum in Oklahoma City. Over the years I have seen some fantastic
work with both Ellis and Karl's mark on it and this saddle is no exception. I
have tried to show as many "up-close" photos as I can so you can see the
tremendous detail and work that went into this beautiful parade rig. Currently I
would estimate the age of this saddle at about 60+ years old. I am continuing
my research and will update this page as I learn more about this saddle and
The following is the description of THE CHIEF SEATTLE model from the Karl's
catalog: "Built on the low roper tree with beautifully engraved sterling cantle
and fork bindings, large, highly ornamented swell caps, horn cap and horn
binding. Sterling ornaments on jockeys, skirts, fenders and tapaderos. All
ornaments are hand engraved."
This saddle set includes the saddle, tapaderos, breast collar, genuine wool
corona, bridle (no bit), and pencil thin rommel style reins. All of the silver on this
piece is STERLING ... not plate, not overlay... but genuine STERLING silver.
The diamond shaped silverwork on this saddle mimics the look of the saddle
made famous by Roy Rogers... Ed Bohlin's - Dick Dickson Jr. model. Ted
Flower's copied this same "look" affordably with the "500 series" saddles he
produced. (I recently found an excellent "web article" about Roy's saddles at
www.happytrails.org/roys-saddles.html --check it out).
Every diamond shaped concho on this rig is hand engraved... every piece
feels like cut crystal. The silver is generously applied around the edges of each
skirt, down each fender, and around the edge of each tapadero.
At the bottom of each fender there is a richly engraved 3 inch concho. The front
of the saddle also features "over-under" silver on the saddle gullet, silver swell
caps, and it is crowned with a silver wrapped horn. All of this silver is intricately
engraved including the horn cap that has a beautiful rose depicted in it!
The cantle is also silver wrapped and meticulously engraved with silver
diamonds mounted on top. The rounded skirts on this saddle also add an
elegant flair to this saddle. The rounded skirts are somewhat of a rare find and
fit many horses better than square skirts.( Update: I have had quite a bit of
interest in this saddle because of the rounded skirts-- people with "saddle
type" horses commonly use round skirt saddles because they fit their horses
with short backs better. It is unusual to see a parade rig with a rounded skirt. If
you look at the photo of Karl Raab on the catalog cover to the left there is some
writing on the very bottom left corner. I could not make this out until I actually got
to see this catalog in person. This is what it says, " Karl L. Raab, owner on his
famous gold and black stallion, Supremes Golden Boy, Reg. #22810
ASHBA." ASHBA is what is now known as the ASHA or the American
Saddlebred Horse Association. So Karl owned a registered Saddlebred. I am
guessing the "gold and black" means the stallion was a buckskin. So a little
more research has to be done!)
Another thing that sets these "west coast" handmade saddles apart is the
quality of the leather used and the beautiful tooling. This saddle even though it
is over 50 years old still looks great in part due to the fact that the materials
used were such high caliber. I tried to take many close-ups of the leather
tooling to show what beautiful work was done on this saddle... very
dimensional tooling gives it such a rich look. This saddle is clearly marked
"Karl's Seattle" right behind the horn. As is often the case with the fine makers
even the maker's mark has quite a bit of style!
The following is from the Karl's catalog, " In traditional western style,
sturdiness and sheer beauty, the equipment that we put out is built for a
lifetime of service and lasting satisfaction to its owner.
Every piece of equipment is made from carefully selected materials best
fitted for its purpose.
We use only the finest grade of saddle leathers, heavy sterling silver and
14K gold except where otherwise specified. Our wokmen are selected for
their special skill in their particular line and are instructed to take great pains
in every detail of their work, whether it be a small silver belt buckle or the
finest silver-and -gold mounted western outfit we can produce.
We guarantee that to the very best of our ability the western equipment that
you order from us will be made the finest thing of its kind.
Many of our customers and enthusiatic friends make the statement, "It is the
finest in the world." We do our utmost to maintain this reputation. You can be
proud to own a western outfit built by Karl's in Seattle."
As was commonly done on most of these west coast custom made saddles
the initials of what we can assume was the original owner are emblazoned on
the 2 tapaderos. Sometimes you will find that this personalization was added
on after the fact and put over the original tooling. That is not the case here... the
tooling works right around the circular piece of silver. The initials appear to be
"JM" and some additional research is in order to find out who ordered this
saddle originally. (Note: In the Karl's catalog it explains that, "every Karl's
saddle bears a registered serial number, as shown, stamped deep in its
leather, protecting owner against loss and giving assurance of highest
quality materials and craftsmanship." The number on this saddle is low so
that may also indicate that this is one of his earlier saddles.)
Sold ! - Congrats to Jim & Bev on the purchase of this fine saddle
Update: Recently I was allowed the privilege of veiwing the 1955
Karl's catalog. (which would also indicate that he was still in
business until at least 1955). Karl's Saddle & Silversmith Company
was located at 2401 7th Ave. in Seattle, Washington. I have
updated the information on this particular saddle below... updates
are highlighted in yellow.
"THE CHIEF SEATTLE "
The tapaderos also are trimmed out in the same diamond silver pattern that is found on the saddle. At the tip there is a very large
heavily engraved plate that has matching diamond conchos mounted at the top (just like a Bohlin Dick Dickson). Look at the
close-up photo and notice how artfully the tooling works all around it.
The breast collar is also heavy in sterling. All the engraved buckles on the breast collar are marked "Karl's Seattle" and "Sterling"
and there is even a sterling mark on the large center plate. Even the small round conchos on the top straps and the small
diamonds on the neck strap are engraved beautifully.
As is often the case with these old saddles the bridle did not survive as well as the saddle! Often the bridles deteriorated from
horse sweat and use. The bridle with this set was totally rebuilt and like the rest of the set is also sterling silver. It features
beautifully pencil thin rounded leather work that was painstakingly done and beautiful Longhorn embellishments. Making a bridle
like this is no small feat; however my goal is to always restore these great saddles back to a state where they can actually be
shown off again!
The corona pad was custom made for this round skirted saddle and it in excellent used condition. It was made with lacing so that
once again it would fit the horse nicely. It has real wool edging, fleece bottom, and the carpet type topping you see on many of
these early coronas.
This is a great saddle for a posse rider that needs a sterling saddle to qualify to ride with the troop. Of course it is also a great
saddle to add to a collection... as you can see from the photos it is top notch. Make it fun to invest in silver!
Sorry... this saddle has been sold.