Boyt Harness During Both World Wars

Boyt Harness During Both World Wars

Did you know our company has a rich history dating back to the 19th Century, both locally and nationally?

As a young Englishman, Walter Boyt came to America to find his life calling back in 1885. He started the Des Moines Saddlery Company with his brother John, which later transitioned to Walter Boyt Saddlery in 1901. Although their family-owned business primarily manufactured fine driving harnesses for buggies, the Great War in Europe took the company in an entirely different direction. It was then the Boyt brothers decided to use their skillful knowledge to provide essential equipment to troops in the war. This pivotal moment transitioned the framework of Boyt for the next 100 years.

During World War I, the company built the first of many firearm accessories, including a military pistol holster for the then-new Colt 1911 .45 pistol, along with cavalry saddle bags and harnesses for artillery and transport horses. After the war ended, Walter Boyt sold the company to his brother John and John's three sons, Joseph Walter, Arthur John and Paul Alfred Boyt. They changed the name to The Boyt Harness Company and the next generation of Boyt brothers continued the tradition of making durable harnesses, saddles, bridles and tack for farmers and stockmen around the Midwest. And then war rocked the country again. The Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor started another shift in production for the war effort. From 1941-1945, Boyt produced millions of pieces of equipment destined for American offensives in both the European and Pacific theaters. The equipment was integral to the tens of thousands of teachers, farmers, office workers and tradesmen transformed into the largest standing fighting force in the nation’s history.

The Boyt Harness Company knew some of those soldiers were local kids from the neighborhoods directly across the river from the Boyt facility.

“My uncles, who served with the First Marine Division and the 3rd and 4th Raider Battalions, were combat marines who made the landings at Peleliu, Guadalcanal, Bougainville and Okinawa. On their transport ships to the Solomons, they were pleasantly surprised to find much of the gear they were issued had been made at the bustling harness factory just a few blocks from their house. I still have my Uncle Frank’s theatre modified bolo in a Boyt sheath that he wore next to his Raider stiletto.”

- Tony Caligiuri


The Boyt Harness Company

Combat marines were generally issued more than a dozen pieces of Boyt gear, including their backpacks, web belts, cartridge pouches and M-1 Garand slings. The workers in the Boyt factory would argue that Japanese soldiers had never seen a Boyt backpack - because the United States Marines never retreated. The Boyt Harness Company is proud of the efforts the Boyt brothers and the entire staff has made to produce quality gear that has critically supported American troops. We salute all military service men and women, and thank them for their dedication to serving and protecting our great country.