Restored Gathright Eclipse side-saddle, c. 1869
In the USA in 1869, John T. Gathright of Kentucky took out a patent for his new side-saddle design, the Eclipse. John, and his cousin Josiah Gathright were both talented nineteenth-century inventors, who each held patents for their side-saddle tree designs, Josiah devising the well-known Morgan side-saddle tree in 1868 (named after the general he served under in the Confederate Army), which many a subsequent manufacturer used as the framework for their own side-saddles.
Although they fought on opposing sides in the American Civil War of the 1860s, the cousins joined forces afterwards to form a business association in 1866. Later they formed separate companies manufacturing saddlery, both successful enterprises - Josiah's Harbison and Gathright continued for several decades, producing a variety of side-saddles on the Morgan tree, many of which found their way into wholesalers' catalogues. Several adverts for side-saddles mention the Morgan and Eclipse trees; these side-saddles became the standard for the American middle class. Often pictured without a leaping horn, this feature could be added at extra cost.
The Eclipse side-saddle pictured above was bought at auction. A label attached to the tree gave John Gathright's patent date of 1869, so this was probably one of the side-saddles produced in the early days of the Gathright enterprise. The seat measures a tiny 17 1/2 inches from the front edge of the upright horn to the cantle; the leaping horn was added for modern riding in the US. The patterns for the skirts and insets were faithfully duplicated from the original, but the saddle has all new leather.
Photo and information by kind permission of Marti Friddle of Hundred Oaks, Inc., USA. (See Links page.)
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