New Belt Buckle Maker Profile: Lewis Buckle Co., Inc.
Updated: May 18
Manufacturer/Artist: Lewis Buckle Co., Inc.
Status: Defunct. Company was acquired in the early 1980s.
Location: Palantine/Chicago, IL
Related companies: Great American Products (buyout)
Style and Themes: Produced early copies of "Tiffany" buckles and then developed several series of original designs, also produced corporate designs.
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The Lewis Buckle Co. was an early commercial manufacturer of modern bar-and-pin belt buckles in the United States. They began by producing reproductions of the Tiffany style buckles from the late 60s and early 70s, but quickly developed their own designs and business strategy. The buckles were plated with either brass or pewter over a dense alloy (likely pewter) with high relief designs in a variety of styles including hippie culture, Americana, the old west, consumer product brands, and custom corporate designs. Like many other buckle makers, they designed and produced a buckle series with original artwork that commemorated statehood for each of the U.S. states. Production under the Lewis name ceased when the company was acquired by rival belt buckle manufacturer, Great American Products, in the early 1980s.
Lewis Buckle Co. belt buckles were sold through a variety of channels including mail order advertisements in newspapers and magazines, as well as sales catalogs. Many of the early designs, including the Winchester and Colt Revolvers buckles pictured below in the magazine ad, were reproductions of "Tiffany" designs from the late 60s and early 70s. (For more information on Tiffany style buckles visit my belt buckle history pages). For $5 you have a belt buckle mailed to you and show your support for the 2nd Amendment.
The "Tiffany" reproduction buckles were internally dubbed Series 100 by Lewis Buckle Co. and represented only a portion of their offering of about 200 designs in 1975. In total, there were five unique series:
Series 100 (Tiffany reproductions): Coca Cola designs, cigarette paper brands, Harley Davidson, antique automobiles, old west & Americana
Series 200 (alcohol brands): Heileman's Old Style Beer, Budweiser, Hennessy, Hamm's Beer, Miller, Olympia, & more
Series 300 (miscellaneous original designs): Various uncategorized original designs
Series 400 (U.S. State series): One buckle for each U.S. State with the date of statehood, original artwork
Series 500 (Railroads): Burlington, Santa Fe, Union Pacific, Frisco, & more
The company also created retail sales channels by offering store displays and "blister pack" shrink wrap packaging for an additional fee. The wholesale prices for Lewis Buckle Co. belt buckles in 1975 ranged from $1.60 to $2.35/ea. depending on quantity. The retail prices would have been $4 to $5, which is roughly equivalent to $20 to $25 in today's dollars after accounting for inflation.
In addition to their original and retail designs, Lewis Buckle Co. offered leather belts and specialty design services for custom and corporate buckles.
A sales catalog, ca. 1975, provides some limited information on company structure and management:
The State Series was designed by Nancy Lewis and Mary Kale (Vice-President of Lewis Buckle Co., Inc. and owner of Kale Advertising, an L.B.Co. subsidiary).
- Quote from Series 400 Section, pages not numbered
My research on Nancy Lewis and Mary Kale has not yielded any additional information. You can contact me with additional information about the company and I'll update this post as needed.
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About the Author:
Brock Lane is an entrepreneur with ecommerce experience and specializes in vintage accessories. He operates multiple shops on Etsy, eBay, and Shopify and maintains an inventory of over 5,000 rare and unique belt buckles, leather belts, and other goods. He leverages his sales history and professional background as an M.S. Economist to write about trends in online retail marketplaces.
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