My interest in John Brush saddles began when Brendan Morris found a rare survivor on his farm in New South Wales. He posted some photos in The Australian Social History Facebook Group.
John Brush established a saddlery and harness store in Sydney in 1840. It was during a period of severe economic depression, but nevertheless the business thrived.
A piece published in The Sydney Stock and Station Journal on November 1 1898 gave a brief outline of its history.
About 60 years ago the firm was founded by John Brush, in the Haymarket. Think of what the Sydney Haymarket was 60 years ago! Great Scot! Sydney was a poor little town then, but the Haymarket was an important part of it. John Brush was a good business man, and he moved with the times. He left the Haymarket, and set up in Brickfield Hill……about 36 years ago he moved into George Street.
The business continued to expand and in 1898 fine new premises were erected in George Street;
In April 1900 an intriguing testimonial letter was received from Charles Tisdall, the agent in Persia for the British and Foreign Bible Society;
In November 1898, you made me a saddle to order, and when delivering it you asked me to let you know what I thought of it after about a year’s trial……I rode it all over the mountain passes between Hushiri and Shiraz, and then rode on “chupper” or post horses (broken-down, under-fed animals), on which I had to work my passage to Julfa in five days (i.e. from 60 to 80 miles per day, getting fresh horses about every 20miles.)
Although I had never ridden in the saddle before, it never chafed or tired me, and I had not been on a horse for months. I have much pleasure in stating that it is, without doubt, the best saddle I ever possessed or rode on, and trust soon to give you an order for a lady’s saddle for my sister, who will be passing through Sydney soon.
I am, yours faithfully, Chas. E. G. Tisdall
Mr Tisdall’s sister was probably seeking a side-saddle, which were popular with gentlewomen of the era.
John Brush was a regular exhibitor at the Royal Sydney Show. Below is a photo of their pavilion;
On display at the 1920 Royal Sydney Show was a John Brush saddle used throughout WWI by Lt. Col. R.F. Fitzgerald, D.S.O., who had
served in Egypt, France and Belgium. Many of the Australian Light Horsemen in the Great War used the saddles.
Naturally the arrival of the motor car spelled the beginning of the end for the business, at least in urban Australia. However, catalogues were still being produced in the 1950s. To survive for well over a century is quite an achievement.