Five generations ago, in the late 19th century, E.B. Walker was a surveyor working for the railroads. As the railroads acquired land for their tracks, they would also establish towns along their routes. It was E.B. Walker’s job to find promising locations for these new towns, to lay out their boundaries and see if he could get anybody to go live in them.
Even though the land in these plots was practically free, they were also way out in the wilderness, literally in the middle of nowhere, so they were not in big demand. To get inhabitants, the railroads promoted these new towns to prospective immigrants in Europe by selling inexpensive tickets to America that included passage on a ship, with a railroad ticket and a plot of land included in the price.
Newcomers would arrive in these remote spots with nothing but a knapsack and a loaf of bread and start trying to put a community together. As we well know, those plucky pioneers made numerous towns out of not much more than an axe and a whole lot of determination. But as they started to barter and trade among themselves it turned out that one thing they lacked was actual money. They could barter a bushel of apples for a bushel of wheat or whatever it is they had, but not having money, they couldn’t sell or buy anything that wasn’t a commodity, and this is where E.B. Walker comes back into the picture.
Out in wilderness, Mr. Walker had no way to print money or mint coins, but he came up with the idea of making some usable money out of leather, which served well enough until these towns grew big enough to attract an actual sleazy banker. Now, if he had been thinking ahead, he would have run with this idea and become a banker himself, but instead he and his partner H.R. Williams went into the leather business, making all manner of horse collars, saddles, bridles and, after moving back to civilization, carriage trimmings and buggy whips.
That was just about 120 years ago and the Walker & Williams Company is still rolling along. Along the way the company has made everything that can be made out of leather, from industrial belts to high end luggage and is now, due to a lot of nagging by certain family members who like this sort of thing, also making guitar straps.