In 1953, a young Billy Cook first opened his own saddle shop in Greenville, TX. That year he built seventy-five saddles. Over the next few years, Billy’s business kept growing, and in order to keep up with demand he partnered with Potts-Longhorn and production was scaled to 1,200 saddles a year by the end of the 1950s.
Then as now, every saddle made under the purview of Billy Cook was stamped with a “Billy Cook Maker” makers mark. These saddles are meticulously hand tooled on sturdy saddle trees, and production was never allowed to exceed a volume which could not be inspected by him personally as the manager of production. Billy Cook’s saddles have always been intended to be an icon of affordable quality craftsmanship and functionality desired by the majority of horsemen and women.
During the 1980’s, Potts-Longhorn had financial trouble coinciding with the recession that hit the United States. Ultimately, that company failed and was foreclosed on by the bank, and Billy Cook went on to start his own operation once again. In 1988, Billy Cook incorporated as Billy Cook Harness & Saddle Manufacturing, Inc. in Texas. Shortly thereafter, he moved his saddlemaking operation to Sulphur, Oklahoma where it remains today.
Over the years Billy Cook’s team was cemented by two key players in the shop that produces our fine saddles. Jody Ramer, a native of Sulphur, OK began working alongside Billy in 1991. First learning the craft of saddlemaking. In 2018 Jody began personally managing the production of the saddles to ensure the integrity and quality of the product was maintained as Billy aged. Rutilo Osornio, a leather artisan with the mechanical skills necessary to maintain the sewing and cutting equipment used to make saddles, began working with Billy in 1979. Rutilo began directly overseeing the production of bridles, breast collars, and other tack and accessories under Billy in 1992.
Billy Cook passed on in October of 2019. But Jody and Rutilo continue to operate the shop and personally supervise the production of all of the Genuine Billy Cook products in the same fashion as Billy taught them. Together with their staff, Jody and Rutilo perpetuate the heritage of Billy Cook. America’s most prolific saddlemaker and one of the finest leather toolers the world has ever known.
Billy Cook Harness & Saddle Manufacturing, Inc. is dedicated to making the products the cowboys, cowgirls, horsemen and women need to engage in the work in the equestrian industry. The Billy Cook Maker’s Mark stands alone as a symbol of fine artisanry and durable quality.
It was in 1991 that Billy Cook filed a trademark with the United States Patent and Trademark Office for the makers mark that is legally incontestable and still adorns every quality product that leaves the shop: BILLY COOK MAKER U.S.A. GENUINE SULPHUR, OK
It is interesting to note that when Potts-Longhorn went out of business a bank had foreclosed its assets and resold them to Simco Leather Company in 1990. Included with those assets were the “general intangibles” including a reference to the name “Billy Cook Saddlery” which had been used in marketing materials when Billy was working at Potts-Longhorn. Billy disputed every giving or selling to Potts-Longhorn the rights to this name, and the contract stated that Simco was purchasing these assets “as is” and “where is” with no warranty or representations and all implied warranties expressly disclaimed.
Nonetheless, the Simco conglomerate later attacked Billy Cook for the use of his own name and attempted to bully him into abandoning his makers mark despite the valid trademark he possessed. Billy refused to give in. But, for a lack of financial resources to arm himself with lawyers and fight back against the massive Simco conglomerate, Billy was unable to force them to quit using his name.
Thereafter for nearly thirty years, there was confusion in the market due to the existence of two lines of saddles and horse tack marketed with similar names. Our handmade high-quality products proudly stamped “Billy Cook Maker USA Genuine Sulphur, OK” and the inferior and mass produced “Billy Cook Saddlery Greenville, TX” line. Remember, when something is labeled “Billy Cook” if its not a “Maker” it’s a “Faker!”