By: Kimberly Locke
Photos: Fernando Cerda
In the 1940s, Carla Routt’s grandfather had five silver saddles designed and made by the Bohlin Company, a company synonymous with craftsmanship and known for its famous clientele. Routt still has the saddle made for her grandmother. “Bohlin is the most famous saddle maker that ever walked this earth so anything that has his name on it, the price goes up,” says Routt while standing proudly beside her grandmother’s Bohlin saddle displayed prominently in her living room, the walls and surfaces overflowing with memorabilia of the rich history of Routt’s family. The saddle and accessories are flanked by sterling silver Indian chieftain figureheads that gleam as the light streams through Routt’s windows. It’s understandable why Bohlin’s work is so renowned.
After running away from his home in Sweden at just 15 years old, Ed Bohlin headed for the Wild West, working cattle drives in Montana prior to settling in Cody, Wyoming where he opened his first saddle shop. While preforming at Hollywood’s Pantages Theater, Bohlin met American film actor Tom Mix who convinced Bohlin to stay in Los Angeles, where he built his reputation as “saddle maker to the stars,” and created over 12,000 saddles, including those of Rose Parade fame.
Bohlin gained notoriety among such Hollywood cowboy legends as Montie Montana and Roy Rogers for their parade saddles, spurs and other Western ware, which was made of the highest quality silver and leather available. His silver works of art became synonymous with the Rose Parade as cowboy legends and the Long Beach Mounted Police proudly employed Bohlin saddles and spurs along the parade route. Bohlin saddles and other Western wear remain highly coveted by Western art collectors. Today a silver Bohlin saddle can fetch upwards of $100,000 at auction.