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Qualey Bros - Tom Qualey

Birth place or City of origin: Joseph
State of origin: ID
Last known City: Grangeville
Last known State: ID
Start/Birth date: 1903
Death/End date: 1977

Tom Qualey was born near Joseph, Idaho in 1903 and began making bits and spurs in the mid-1920s, primarily for his own use. By 1933 Tom had established himself as an accomplished maker who supplied bits and spurs to stockman, cattleman and cowboys in eastern Oregon, central Idaho and western Montana. From the early 1930s until 1937 he worked with two brothers, Knut and Nels, before dissolving the partnership in 1937. Tom was a master engraver, who, according to saddle maker Ray Holes, was unequaled in his ability to do precise engraving, using only a forge, hammer, hacksaw and file.

Knut Qualey came from Norway as a blacksmith in 1900 to live in Idaho. The family homesteaded a ranch on Joseph Plains, Idaho and raised his nine children after his wide died in 1915. Sons, Jens, Tom, Nels and Olaf would reshape old farm tools or wagon wheel rims into bits and spurs with Tom being the most talented. Beginning in 1920, Tom and Nels made bits and spurs in their spare time at the ranch, marking them “Qualey Bros”. In 1942 the ranch was sold and Nels stop silver smithing while Tom moved to Cottonwood, Idaho and built houses while also making bits and spurs.

Beginning in 1944, Tom, working solo, made pieces marking them “Qualey”. Most of these were sold by either Ray Holes or through Miller Hardware in Grangeville.

In 1948, Tom was working for Ray Holes in Grangeville for the next 29 years alongside his wife, Elma who put rawhide on saddle trees that her husband made. Nels died in Lewiston, Idaho in 1972 and Tom died in Grangeville, Idaho five years later.


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