Gathering of Nations 2018
Each year we pack up and head to the Gathering of Nations. We’re are honored to have been chosen to be a part of this historic event. This gathering is the largest Powwow in America and has been since 1983. A powwow is a North American Indian ceremony that includes various activities including singing, dancing, and a large feast.
During this Powwow, and other Powwows, the Elders pass down historic traditions to the youth in order to preserve traditions. To learn more, check out the Gathering of Nations History.
Buffalo Billfold Company En Route
We’ve been hard at work handcrafting leather goods and just finished loading them all up in our trailer. Today we struck out on the road with our compass and map pointing us toward the southwest of the United States. Our trailer is full to the brim with Bison leather wallets, belts, purses and more and we can’t wait to arrive!
We’d love to be able to show you photos, but in observance of the event etiquette, there are only certain times we’re allowed to take photographs. Etiquette comes in many forms during these events. Knowing and using the proper terminology is important to us, as we want to respect the Native American culture as best we can. We are learning more and more each year about the appropriate terminology for various things. Plus there are a lot of common sense things one should practice; such as not letting your curiosity get the best of you touching things that are interesting to you, such as the drums.
You’ve made our Leather Flight Bags for Pilots a massive hit. But we only make them when we’ve got some extra time on our hands. Hence, we haven’t made them for quite a while now. With a twist of curious fate I was recently approached by small a fleet of airline pilots (737,747 & McDonald Douglas pilots). They have all requested that I reconsider producing more. These pilots have seen our American Leather Flight Bags and do not want to retire without having one in their possession. To reconsider this project I have to make either 12 or 24 flight bags at a time to make the project feasible.
The phone continues to ring with pilots, and other people, wanting this leather flight bag. They recognize that this is not a flight bag that has lots of hype, only to have a label that says it is made in some far off land. This flight bag is a labor of love. It is made by us, here in America, not just marketed by us. It is made by people you know.
Alas, we have relented and with a devil-may-care attitude, we have decided to go forth and produce this labor intensive piece of leather luggage. The Leather Flight Bag will be weeks in the making. We are crafting two versions this time. The first will be made of Brown Buffalo Leather. The second will be created using Black Buffalo Leather and Military Grade Ballistic Nylon with Sail Cloth Backing (creating a bag that is lighter weight but still very durable).
If you’re interested in a limited edition, historically correct, all Buffalo leather flight bag, consider giving us a call or order online. We will reserve one for you. They will be complete and ready for shipment between now and Thanksgiving. I will personally oversee every detail until it arrives at your doorstep. The current batch of Leather Flight Bags are numbered #87 through #120 and initialed by the artisans that have handcrafted them for you.
If you prebook and order before October first you can use the coupon FlightBag10 to get 10% off! (Sales subject to the quantities currently being produced)
Bill and Lauri Keitel
The Buffalo Billfold Company
August 21st, 2017.
We’re headed homeward to our mother port in the deep south of Minnesota. A heavy rain is falling and we’ve had to pull over three times and stop on the interstate, the eclipse brought us moisture and dimness.
As people start to post incredible eclipse picture and appreciate the curiosity of this solar/lunar event.
I ponder the previous generations that have witnessed such planetary awe. Being a student of History and Anthropology and Sociology, it has always made me wonder how past civilizations appreciated celestial events like the eclipse that just occurred.
As a civilization we have been some what organized for perhaps ten or twenty thousand years. That equates to perhaps 300 to 600 generations of people. About 300 generations ago we learned how to make beer, so surely we were becoming civilized.
Humanity has witnessed many celestial events. In 585 BC a solar eclipse was recorded and numerous others events were recorded throughout heathendom and Christendom.
Our history is fraught with misdirected fears and during the middle ages people were burned at the stake for practicing witch craft which might have been the birth of herbalists or modern medicine.
Imagine what might have happened when the eclipses occurred in different societies? when the day went dark….
Perhaps this was the origin of religions? Or magical thinking? Surely there were many places where sacrifices were made.
The Sun was a deity in numerous religions and there must have been people that were fascinated by the eclipse phenomena and did not flee in terror. Instead these people may well have stared at the eclipse in wonderment. Large populations would have suffered the wrath of their God by the ensuing blindness that occurred. A punishment so permanent nobody could consider doubting. The mass blindness burdened their struggling society for a generation or more.
I think there is some notion that within the last 300 generations many societies started sacrificing animals rather than humans. It seemed less personal and caused a bit less angst amongst family members.
There are many things that could be better in this world and as the population increases exponentially we will surely be faced with continued trials and tribulations.
We should have paused for a moment as the Moon obstructed the Sun and we should have sighed a breath of relief.
We have finally become informed enough to know that this is a natural occurrence and not of some God wanting vengeance, blood or sacrifice. Alas, Sacrifices have dimished.
Ten or fifteen generations ago the earth was flat. At about that same time we came to realize something called gravity. We also came to realize that we live on a helicentric planet. We’ve come to understand many things by educated people working tirelessly in numerous fields.
I take a moment to thank the scientists in my life that have dedicated their lives to pursuing knowledge, answering questions that only lead to more questions. They are the ones that move our society forward creating greater understanding for all.
See you out on the trail!
I’m Bill Keitel. A Leather Smith by trade. As I progress in age, I find I can perhaps look forward to some sort of retirement. I don’t really know what that might look like, but it allows me to ponder my future.
I started out being born 100 years too late. I have been a leather smith my whole life. Those around me are computer specialists, web developers, and no one is an elevator operator.
Most of my friends and customers recognize me as someone who sells them something. They think I am a salesman, and perhaps I am. It is not my whole life, because to sell them something I have to create something.
Primarily, I have spent my life as a leather smith. I was born into this curious world amazed at all around me. My profession should have been as an anthropologist, archaeologist, sociologist — something in those “ology” veins.
Today I continue to go to my place of employment and do various sorts of leather smithing. I sort hides. I grade hides. I read hides. I know the history of the buffalo by looking at the results of a tanning process I dictate. The final statement of his life is in my hands.
I look at a recent tannery run produced specifically for me, consisting of perhaps 400 hides. I can tell they have come from different ranches throughout the West and Midwest. I can tell most were free-ranging, and some were feeder lot-raised. I can tell which ones came from Canada (about 5 percent). I can tell which ones came from the largest state park in the U.S. The hide also reveals which animals were breeding females, by the stretch marks that appear toward the belly.
Daily, I decide the appropriate way to create product from this material. I can take the shortcut to create better yield, or I can use the tried-and-true method of creating quality and value to myself and my customer. I always reflect on an old adage: “The disappointment of poor quality lasts longer after the cheapness of the low price is forgotten”.
At work, I look at my tools and realize some are brand new and some are 100 to 150 years old. I use them all daily, sometimes without a second thought. They serve their purpose, as they always have
Leather smiths, I suspect we are a select group of craftsmen. We might make shoes or harnesses, or buggy whips! We work with our hands as we intently read the hide. We sell our products at art festivals, so we resign ourselves to the public scrutiny. Are we fine craft? We are certainly not fine art — are we craft? I feel comfortable with the “Artisan” category, craft that has served the ages.
I delight when our tanning process is complete, six weeks in the making. When the shipment arrives, hundreds of hides are inspected. Each hide is expensive, each hide tells a story. We tan the buffalo leather with a “naked” finish. It is a tanning process that costs more than other types of tanning. It also reduces the yield of a hide, because this process reveals, rather than hides, natural markings on the hide.
As we unpack the hides, we encounter brands, barbwire scars, suture marks from a buffalo that has been “horned in.” It is apparent which animals were raised in wide open spaces and which ones were raised in feeder lots. The leather is all of the highest quality; grades A,B and C indicate which ones have more scars. Our tannery run includes some of each, and that is what sorting is all about.
I am not the first one to work and sort hides for a living. This has been done for the past 10,000 years on this continent. I have the good fortune of doing it in a more refined setting that includes air conditioning, German and Italian die-cutting machinery.
Over the decades I have fed and clothed my family by this profession. I have sent my children, and others, to college. All this by an ancient craft.
As I scan the tools at my workbench, I realize I have amassed many — far more than I could afford to buy at one time. I am interested in history, and I spy a couple of tools that I have used for decades. One is made of bone, and the other of antler. One is a “folder,” and the other is a creaser that when pressed onto the leather scribes a line. I bought them with a larger group of assorted antique leather working tools 40 years ago.
These bone and antler tools stand out because they are not the 100-year-old variety of tools that reside in my collection of working tools. These tools date to the pre-production era. They were made when bones and antlers were more available than iron and steel. They are still used weekly, and they hold a place of importance and reverence in my daily routine.
Amassed over a 45-year career, the tools tell my profession, they tell my trade, they tell my story.
The story of a 1870’s leather smith is alive 147 years later and continues with gratitude to all of those who have appreciated this curious lifestyle.
Why Buffalo Leather?
You may be wondering why, out of all the types of leather available, did we choose to use American buffalo leather? It’s a great type of leather, but what makes buffalo leather stand out? What are the unique qualities that make buffalo leather the best choice? Does a tanned buffalo hide feel different than cow hide? Well, we plan to answer all of those questions, and give you some background on why we’re uniquely qualified to answer these questions.
Back in 1972 we started our leather goods shop. At the start, we worked with various types of leather (cow, deer, etc) because of the popularity of certain styles. At the time many people were generally more fond of leather engraving so we choose to use leather that would support that art form. We hand engraved cow hide that was of a thicker tanning, and created many unique pieces in our own style. We worked on improving our own unique leather tanning recipes because we wanted each of our products to be handcrafted by the very best leather.
The Big Switch
After a while we had perfected our tanning recipes and leather working techniques using cow hide. At that time we were supplying leather pager cases to organizations all across the USA. However, throughout this time we’d been getting excited about working with other types of leather. We decided to shift our focus to the American Bison because buffalo leather was proving to have amazing qualities. We’ll get to that later. After a little time our customers were enjoying a brand new product line handcrafted entirely from buffalo leather. After mastering cow hide and now a few years into mastering buffalo hide, we now saw the possibilities that could be offered by buffalo leather when tanned, hand selected, and crafted properly. This is when we made our big switch, changed our product line to buffalo leather and became a trail blazer in the American Bison leather industry.
We don’t outsource any of our leather work, but work every ounce of the leather ourselves. Because of this, we’re uniquely qualified to answer the questions posed earlier. So let’s get started!
Buffalo Leather, Hands Down.
Why does buffalo leather stand out? One big difference is how it stretches. This can be a good thing, or a bad thing (if you don’t know how to use it to your advantage). Thankfully, after years of hands on experience, the stretch of buffalo leather is a great thing in our products! The product needs each part to be sourced from a specific part of each buffalo hide. Using the right pieces in the right places will give you long lasting durability and increased performance. This is one reason customers love our products.
Besides being a great leather because of it’s stretchiness and strength, buffalo hide offers other unique qualities. It looks different and wears differently than cow hide. Initially buffalo leather has a unique texture to it and is softer than cow hide. Customers often notice that texture difference when they pick up our leather goods. The more a leather product is used, the more the texture begins to fade. You’ll see a wallets texture fade faster than a purse or a Standard Legal Pad Cover. The leather can eventually look like a well worn saddle.
Tanning leather is an art in itself. Different techniques and recipes will give you different leathers. This is why leather tanning is an essential foundation in every product. Both buffalo hide and cow hide have unique results when tanning because you can tan them in so many different ways. The key to a good product rests with knowing which recipes to use for various products, and understanding how the different parts of the tanned hide will perform. Buffalo leather is a bit trickier to work than cow hide because of the nature of the leather. Even so, the end results when using American Bison leather are amazing.
Now that you’ve gotten a better understanding of the unique properties buffalo leather has to offer, we hope you can see why we love it so much. Whether we are handcrafting a belt, checkbook cover, case or clip, we’re excited to be working with American Bison leather. All of our leather goods are Made in America at our workshop in Worthington, MN and we’d challenge you to try out one of our buffalo leather goods when you’re in the market!
We find ourselves looking back at nearly forty five years as leathersmiths, handcrafting durable leather goods. Almost two decades of that have been spent on the road. We’ve pursued an old world trade, we are two leathersmiths. Perhaps we were born one hundred years to late? In the 1860’s our lives would have been spent making saddles and harnesses or making and repairing shoes and boots. However in present day, we spend most of our time crafting buffalo leather wallets, purses, belts and more.
January and February we traveled the SouthWest U.S. attending art festivals, street fairs & wholesale gift shows. We were also invited to exhibit at the Colorado Indian Market, an honor not afforded all craftspersons or leathersmiths.
Early spring and summer we expanded our roadshow to include such far flung elevations as Breckenridge Colorado (10-12,000 ft.) Many of our artist friends that also travel in RV’s can’t make the hill! Another new venue for us was Bozeman, Montana Sweet Pea Festival. We had a great reception and will try to see if we can somehow include this event in the coming years. We hold in high regard those fine folks that have patronized us along the way and allowed our roadshow as leathersmiths to carry on.
While traveling through the west we endured blazing summer heat and…. forest fires. We experienced minor breakdowns of our RV while sweating out the connections to our next show. Our western tour was saved by Fat Boy Tire and Auto in Wheatland Colorado! Woo Hoo Fat Boys!
Emmanuel was a hitch hiker from Belgium that we picked up on our way to Kalispell, Montana. The young twenty something hitch hiker was such a delightful travel companion, He traveled on with us another few days and another thousand miles. We coached him on his “road signage” (his hitchhiking sign). As we waved him goodbye, his new sign said “RideShare! California”.
Traveling throughout the Western Rockies and Great Plains we swerved eastward setting our sails to the most westerly tip of the Great Lakes. We cast a weather eye to Lake Superior-Duluth Minnesota & and the Tall Ships festival. These three destinations all happened within three or four weeks of each other and we have the feeling we are becoming “over the road” truckers. The Tall Ships festival was an amazing event. I’ve always felt I was a sea captain at heart, lacking only a boat, ocean and willing crew (GK).
Most people attend a festival or two each year in their travels. Over the past twenty years we’ve spent perhaps ninety days at festivals each year. We’ve met thousands of people each day, some of whom become Buffalo Billfold Company customers! As the years progress we are grateful for those customers that have made the Buffalo Billfold Company their signature gift giving present. Our gratitude extends to our talented, dedicated, friends and employees back at our leather shop! They are an integral part of this curious journey.
Bill & Lauri
The Buffalo Billfold Company
American Bison emissions are starting to smell pretty good! (Sorry, we couldn’t help ourselves!) ;)
We must now ask a critical question, because we’re conscientious of climate change. Which animal emits more CO2, the American Bison or Cattle? To our great relief, we don’t need to switch our product line!
Comparing the American Bison to Cattle
- For every 1kg of weight (plus dung, transportation, etc) in an American Bison, there will be 25-31kg CO2e emissions.
- For every 1kg of weight (plus dung, transportation, etc) in a cow, there will be 58-70kg CO2e emissions.
Time to Slaughter
- American Bison are raised approximately 27 months before going to market.
- Cattle are raised approximately 30 months before going to market.
Edible Meat Produced
- The average weight of a Bison is 500kg, of which 200kg (40%) is edible meat.
- The average weight of a cow is 400kg of which 140kg (35%) is edible meat.
- Beef and Bison are very similar, however if you’re looking for something that tastes great and has less fat, the Bison is the way to go!
- Wool! Bison hide gives us wool, cow hide does not.
We love American Bison Leather! We’ve worked with both cow and bison hide over the 40+ years we’ve been in business and can’t express how much we love bison hide! American Bison leather is tough and durable. At the same time it offers a soft feel and amazing texture!
So, when you’re thinking about buying leather goods, keep us in mind! We appreciate your support of the American Bison industry, of our planet, and of our handcrafted leather goods!
Your Global Neighbor,
The Buffalo Billfold Company
http://www.ams.usda.gov/AMSv1.0/getfile?dDocName=STELDEV3062519 Further Info:
Saturday November 7th is NATIONAL BISON DAY.
The Buffalo Billfold Company finds this news exciting!
At the turn of the last century the American Bison was nearing the end of its existence. Essential to the life of the plains indian, the bison was indigenous to the plains and prairies. In the early 1800’s
more than 50 million roamed the western plains, by the 1890’s only 550 remained.
Conservation and Game laws brought this animal back from the brink of extinction.
This National Celebration extols the virtues of this monarch of the plains. We also salute the ranchers that saw promise in this animal. They directly increased it’s numbers exponentially. We also honor & credit native Americans for helping us understand the importance of this integral part of our environment.
The bison is good for the prairie, the bison is good for healthy diets, the bison is an important symbol of the American West.
At the Buffalo Billfold we find this day important because it is our confidence in the craftsman way of life, the command over materials, tools and processes that keep alive the pride in cottage industry. WE TOO CELEBRATE THE BISON!
In celebration of National Bison Day order anything on our website and we’ll give you Free Shipping! If you order 4 or more items we’ll include an additional free gift!
This offer is good Sat. Nov. 7th. On any orders that are placed by phone 800-336-7175
Our hours are from 9:00 a.m till 1:00 p.m. (just 4 hours!) Central Standard Time, don’t’ tarry!
Cross a few people of your gift giving list in one fell swoop!
Your Friends at the Buffalo Billfold Company.
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