G.S. Garcia Company History

Elko, Nevada 1894 - 1938
Salinas, California 1917 - 1966

Guadalupe S. Garcia was probably the most notable Silversmith, Saddle Maker, Engraver and leather carver in the American West and he was truly an artisan and visionary in all of the above endeavors. Guadalupe S. Garcia was born in 1864 in Sonora, Mexico and his family moved in 1868 to California, and by 1873 the family had moved to San Luis Obispo, CA, finally settling in Santa Margarita, CA in 1877 when Guadalupe S. Garcia was 13 years old. By 1880, G S Garcia took his first apprenticeship at the Arana Saddle Shop in San Luis Obispo and with the Arana Saddle Shop regarded among the finest in the west, and well rounded for all the applied trades proved to be an excellent training ground for the young G S Garcia.

The Arana Saddle Shop was well known for making saddles, stamping leather, engraving silver, making quirts, lariats, whips, horsehair ropes, cinches, and halters all with careful patience and made by master craftsmen. By 1882 G S Garcia had graduated High School with honors while serving his apprenticeship at the Arana Saddle Shop to the same level of skill now in 1882 he was working at the Silas B. Call's Harness & Saddle Shop as a leather worker and applying all the skills he had learned in his apprenticeship. Now in 1884, with the Southern Pacific Railroad ending its line in Santa Margarita, the young G S Garcia was ready to open his first shop and, with the help of a silent partner Mr. Brewster, the first G S Garcia Saddle Shop was opened on Main Street in Santa Margarita in 1884. After a very successful run in Santa Margarita and gaining a reputation with working cowboys as a master craftsman, G S Garcia decided to follow his clientele to Elko, Nevada and ten years later, in the spring of 1894, a 29-year-old saddler arrived in Elko, Nev. intent on relocating his business. He brought a modest stock of saddlery goods and nearly a decade and a half of experience in the trade, working in saddleries in San Luis Obispo and Santa Barbara, Calif., as well as operating his own shop in Santa Margarita during that community's boom period.

In moving to Elko, Guadalupe S. Garcia was following his customers - the California stockmen and vaqueros who flocked to the Great Basin in the decades following the completion of the transcontinental railroad. Within months of opening his shop in the Mayhugh Building, Garcia had enough business to justify hiring an assistant, probably Florentine Najor, a fellow saddler from San Luis Obispo. By fall of 1895, Garcia found it necessary to move his operations to a larger building. In June 1896, a branch store was opened in Deeth, Nev. That fall, the local paper announced that Garcia had hired a "first class bit and spur maker" and several similar announcements appeared in the following months.

After great success in Elko, Nevada it was in 1903 that G S Garcia decided to craft a saddle to take to the World's Fair. He and his workers assembled the finest saddle every made. Using flawless leather, they dyed it black, carved in American Beauty roses, and then adorned it with gold, silver, and diamonds. It was truly a leather throne. Across the rear of the fork were several $20 gold pieces with likenesses of President Theodore Roosevelt and two governors of Nevada, John Sparks and William Nye. Other gold pieces were carved with the famous three fairy horses with diamonds set in their eyes. An engraved eagle was set into the back of the cantle. It was a leather masterpiece and it lived up to its creator's expectation by winning two gold medals. It was the best in world.

By the turn of the century, Garcia's shop employed a dozen gear makers. His business grew steadily because he knew what his customers wanted and he put together an impressive community of craftsmen to produce "Everything for the Vaquero," as his early catalog covers proclaimed. It did not hurt that he was an accomplished craftsman and horseman himself, or that he had grown up in an area where the legacy of California's Hispanic ranching past remained strong. Garcia put together a truly remarkable shop producing the full range of vaquero horse gear. He employed in-house bit and spur makers, rawhide braiders, hair cinch and rope makers, and eventually produced his own saddle trees and tanned his own leather. He displayed a real genius for promotion, producing his first catalog in 1899 and advertising heavily. His 1904 World's Fair Saddle made his shop and Elko famous worldwide.

Although he was a major booster of Elko, Garcia's ties to California remained strong. Suffering from poor health, Garcia began spending more time in California after 1917. In the early '20s, Garcia maintained a residence in Los Angeles and operated a saddlery on Sunset Boulevard. The 1920 census lists sons Walter and Leslie as proprietors of the Elko shop. By 1924, the name on the catalog had changed from G.S. Garcia to Garcia Saddlery Co. A newspaper article describing a fire in the Elko shop in May of 1924 mentioned Leslie Garcia as the owner of the establishment. Guadalupe S. Garcia died in Los Angeles on April 28, 1933 after a lingering illness. He was buried in the family plot in Santa Margarita. The Shop closed in Elko, Nevada in 1938 although the shop in Salinas, California remained opened until 1966.

Garcia Company makers mark Garcia Company makers mark
Garcia Company engraved in stirrup Elko Nevada engraved on stirrup
Garcia outside a hardness shop where he was a leather worker
1881 - G S Garcia, 18 Years Old. First job as a leather worker standing in front of the Silas Call Harness & Saddle Shop 850 Monterey Street, San Luis Obispo
Garcia first saddle shop
1884 - G S Garcia first Saddle Shop Main Street, Santa Margarita
GS Garcia Saddle Shop in Nevada
1900 - G S Garcia Saddle Shop Elko, NV
Garcia Beauty Saddle
1903 - G S Garcia "Beauty Saddle". The most famous saddle in the world made from Gold, Silver, and Diamonds