Monday, October 22, 2018

Heavy Metal Horse: 1947 Abbotwares Western Horse Radio

I don't collect metal horse figurines. So many of them are so cool, but my shelf space is limited and they don't always mix well with the fragile ceramic horses because of the sheer weight of the metal!  One good "seismic event" and there goes the herd....

But last week at an antique mall I spotted a large, multitasking metal horse at an antique mall that I thought would look nice if displayed away from the other, more fragile model horses. So, after haggling about the price a bit, I brought it home.

My new equine collectible is an Abbotwares Western horse radio.  Abbotwares was a Los Angeles-based firm that produced and marketed decorative metal radios in the years just after World War II.  The company made several variations on this theme of horse-in-Western-tack, as well as versions showing two racing Thoroughbreds with jockeys, a rearing horse with a cowboy, a hula girl, and Lady Godiva on top of the tube radio base.

Ad for Abbotwares horse radios, Fort Worth, Texas Star-Telegram, 
7 March 1948. They were not cheap!

It is huge, and it weighs close to 10 pounds. I photographed it next to the iconic Breyer Family Arab Stallion to show the scale.

The saddle on my Western horse radio is separate from the body of the animal.  (Other versions of the Western horse radio have a horse with molded-on saddle.) The original reins were lost, so a previous owner substituted an old costume jewelry necklace (minus the clasp).  The radio is true to its pre-transistor day, with vacuum tubes and other post-war elements.

I plugged it in cautiously, and was pleased to find that the radio does seem to work (once the tubes have warmed up), but not too well. Expert help has been summoned, and I know that someday soon the Western horse radio will be functional as well as decorative. (Although there's nothing wrong with being merely decorative.)  

The online archive of Billboard magazine shows an ad on page 77 for Abbotwares radios in the November 15, 1947 issue -- just in time for Christmas in that year. The Western horses seem to be somewhat smaller than the example I found.

As you scroll through the pages, you'll see that the Western horse radio was being marketed in the same publication as other items that combined technology with decoration: juke boxes, gumball machines, coin-operated radios, slot machines, pinball machines...all signs of the times.

And maybe if I'm very lucky, when I turn the dial on the old Western horse radio, I'll find a station that plays music from that era...maybe even a song sung by Gene Autry.


For more information on metal horse figurines, I recommend books by Carolyn Martin:

1 comment:

  1. I find this completely cool. Not only a splendidly different Western Horse, but you want the radio to work. My Dad specialized in radios during that era, attending Cal Tech for electronics. Family legend: he met my mom while fixing her radio.