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Thread: More about the Indian Head logo

  1. #1
    New Member
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    Jul 2019

    More about the Indian Head logo

    I've recently become a prewar Savage buff. The history behind the Savage logo has also come into question. I've seen arguments and debates about the changing of the Savage logo. PC or not PC. Neither really matters to me. If it wasn't made in Utica, I probably don't want it.

    Here's the issue. I've seen reprints of what supposedly comes directly from Savage that explains the origins of the Indian head logo. The logo is the image of a Native American chief and his likeness was used in exchange for a discounted price for Savage rifles. I'm sure you've all heard or read it by now. This agreement started in 1919.

    Here's the problem. Every model 1907, which started selling in 1907, has the "Savage Quality" Indian head logo on the grips. Even ones known to have been produced well before 1919. So, does anybody know the real story? Did Savage rewrite history to be proactively PC even before changing the logo?

    I'm interested in the historical truth. Not so much about the PC debate.

  2. #2
    Administrator J.Baker's Avatar
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    Dec 2006
    NW Ohio
    I tried for quite a while to find that answer as well, but unfortunately there's nothing out there to validate the Chief Lame Bear story. In fact, the first reference I could ever find to Lame Bear by Savage was when the story first appeared in their 1996 catalog. Coincidentally, 1996 is also the year Ron Coburn over ownership at Savage Arms.

    My personal belief is that Ron Coburn and the marketing dept. invented the Chief Lame Bear story to quell any potential PC push back on the Savage name and logo. The push to start renaming school mascots and teams and such started around the same time, so it somewhat made sense to do so should the PC morons come knocking on their door.

    Also, if you look at the photo of the "supposed" Chief Lame Bear in the catalogs where the story is told, it's actually a photo of John Fire, aka Chief Lame Deer, great grandson of the Sioux Chief Lame Deer who led the last stand against General Miles before his people were led off to their reservation. It's also the same photo that's on the cover of the 1970 Savage Arms catalog.

    As you pointed out, the Indian head logo was also in use long before the "supposed" deal was struck. In fact, Savage Arms had employed an Indian chief's depiction as their logo almost from the onset in one form or another. Native American's were often referred to as "savage's" well into the early 20th century, and even well up into the 1950's and 60's in movies and television. As such it doesn't take much imagination to see how and why Author Savage decided to use an Indian Chief as the logo for the brand prior to his departure in 1905.

    The 1903 catalog depicts an Indian Chief mounted on a horse. The 1904 catalog is the first to depict just the screaming Chief's head with a Model 1899 in his hand.

    Could there at one time have been such a deal made? Anything is possible, but without an actual original copy of that agreement it will forever be impossible to confirm and validate as fact.
    "Life' is tough. It's even tougher if you're stupid." ~ John Wayne
    “Under certain circumstances, 
urgent circumstances, desperate circumstances, profanity provides a relief denied even to prayer.” —Mark Twain

  3. #3
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    Jul 2019
    Thank you, thank you for such an honest answer. I've pretty much come to the same conclusion. I don't care about the political correctness. I just want the truth. Another writer claimed that Ron Coburn told him personally that as recently as 2018 the tribe Lame Deer belonged to was still receiving payment for the use of his likeness. The unnamed tribe. I would like to see some proof. I believe Ron Coburn was getting ahead of the PC movement. I remember those days. Another version of the story states the use of the chief's likeness was a gift. Therefore, there would be no need to pay royalties in 2018. PC run amuck has the negative impact of distorting historical fact. I would much rather hear the Savage logo was the brainchild of xyz, than to hear a story that is easily refutable.

  4. #4
    Basic Member Robinhood's Avatar
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    Apr 2014
    Off the Smithsonian website......

    According to Savage Arms company history, its logo was the result of a deal in 1919. An Indian chief named Lame Deer negotiated a discount for rifles. In return he offered his tribe’s endorsement and an Indian-head logo. Savage Arms catalog, 1979.

    Courtesy National Museum of the American Indian

    One Cannot Be PC And Be Intellectually Honest!

  5. #5
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    Jul 2019
    There are only three scenarios that could make sense.
    1. The 1919 date is incorrect.
    2. The agreement was made more than a decade after Savage started using the Indian head logo.
    3. The story is a bunch of hogwash.

  6. #6
    New Member Captain Obvious's Avatar
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    Mar 2015
    I dug out my notes from when I was researching this several years ago rather than trying to rely on memory.

    - In all but two instances, the chief referenced as having been the one to strike the deal with Savage is referred two as Chief Lame Deer. In the other two instances, one article text and one photo caption, he is referred to as Chief Lame Bear. Note the photo caption was on Savage's website history page back in the late 2000's.

    - The front cover caption for the 1970 Savage Arms catalog reads as follows:

    The Anniversary Model 1895 pictured on our cover is held by Lame Deer, a Chief and Medicine Man of the Sioux Nation. He is a grandson of the storied Chief Lame Deer, leader of the Sioux in the last stand against General Miles before his people were led to their reservation. When not in ceremonial dress, Lame Deer is known as John Fire. He served with distinction in World War II, is an excellent hunter and lives in South Dakota.
    - In the 1996-1999 Savage Arms catalog we find the following...

    One hundred years ago, a man named Arthur William Savage had the desire, vision and unique skill to offer the public a product that has since stood the test of time. In the early 1900's, the Cheyenne Indians approached Arthur to purchase Model 99 rifles for their Wyoming reservation and a deal was struck to trade firearms for product promotion. Over the next half century, the Cheyenne Indians participated in national trade shows and special product presentations, often in full ceremonial dress. The special relationship continues today and now includes the Apache and Navajo tribes.
    - In another instance I found where Ron Coburn was interviewed and quoted as saying the chief and his tribe were from New York state.

    Just from that little bit of information it's easy to see where all the confusion and uncertainty comes from. So what do we know/what can we prove?

    1. Chief Lame Deer was a Lakota-Sioux chief that fought against General Miles and died at the age of 55 or 56 in May of 1877. (born in 1821)

    2. John Fire is the grandson (or great-grandson?) of Chief Lame Deer and lived from 1903-1976

    3. John Fire is the Chief Lame Deer who appears on the cover of the 1970 Savage Arms catalog and it is the same photo that is used beside the text in the 1996-99 catalogs.

    4. Ron Coburn had stated several times that these agreements were still active with at least three tribes (Cheyenne, Apache and Navajo) during his tenure as the CEO at Savage Arms.

    5. Savage Arms was using an Indian Head logo long before the claimed 1919 agreement, though the logo's were different as you can compare below.

    Very early Savage Ammo Box (guessing early 1900-1910)

    Later Savage Ammo Box (guessing 30's or 40's)
    Click image for larger version. 

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    Indian Head logo on back of 1937 catalog (no. 71)
    Click image for larger version. 

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    Indian Head logo on back of 1942 catalog (no. 76)
    Click image for larger version. 

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    Most recent version of Indian Head logo

    What we don't know is...

    1. When was the first deal struck?

    2. What tribe the original deal was struck with?

    3. With whom specifically (chief) was the first deal struck?

    4. When was the last version of the Indian Head logo first used?

    The stories tell us it was made between a chief and Arthur Savage in 1919, but Arthur had been separated from Savage for 15 years at that point having sold all of his interest in the company in 1904.

    We also see that Savage had agreements with three tribes, but that leaves out the Sioux so how does the Chief Lame Bear lineage fit in to the logo's origin story? There are several pieces that tie Chief Lame Bear to the 1919 agreement, and we know the Sioux and Savage were still honoring that agreement as late as 1970 with the catalog photos.
    Last edited by Captain Obvious; 08-22-2019 at 07:47 PM.

  7. #7
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    Jul 2019
    Thank you for your input. It looks as if we will never know the truth without some documentation. At least there is a record here, on the internet, that there is some confusion about the date of an agreement, or if it is factual at all. I don't know why it is important to me, but in my research about the 1907, 1915, and 1917 semiautomatic pistols I noticed a discrepancy in dates. If anyone will take the time, they will notice the Indian head logo on the 1907 pistol looks remarkably like the last version of the Indian head Savage logo. You will see the word "Trademark" in the Indian headband if you look very closely.

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