Israel Landis

Israel Landis came to St. Joseph in 1844 when he opened a small saddle and harness shop. His business expanded as the town grew. Landis lived until 1893. One of his sons, Benjamin, also worked with him in the saddle business and may have helped design the Pony Express saddle and mochila. Benjamin died in 1888. At some time after the Civil War, they worked for the Wyeth Hardware and Manufacturing Company in St. Joseph which had a large saddle factory.

Source: Jackie Lewin, Curator of History, St. Joseph Museum

Israel Landis was a well-known character, not alone in St. Joe, but along the trail. He started business "at the sign of the Big Saddle," in 1844. When the rush of '49ers began, he rented three buildings, to keep up with the expansion of his business, and hired some of the emigrants who were compelled to winter in St. Joe. In front of his shop was a large wooden frame in which he inserted each week a "poem" advertising his wares. These bits of doggerel became famous all the way to California and were sung or chanted along the trail. Everyone stopped to see what there was new in "Big Saddle Poetry" in St. Joe. The verses usually started off something like this:

If a good saddle you would find,
One that's just suited to your mind,
You need not to St. Louis go,
For you can get one in St. Joe.

Then would follow local allusions, perhaps to Landis' part in the fight to remove the county seat from Sparta to St. Joe, or other local and political activities in which the paddle-maker was prominent.

Source: Chapman, The Pony Express.