Harness Hames Key to the Past

Harness hames held important places in the field, firehouses and mines

| May 2000

  • A firehouse combination hames/collar
    A firehouse combination hames/collar, featuring the bullet-style quick release at the bottom.
  • Some of the hames in Jim Hicks' collection
    Some of the hames in Jim Hicks' collection. The second from the right is the one that started the collection: a souvenir from the Ringling Brothers Circus.

  • A firehouse combination hames/collar
  • Some of the hames in Jim Hicks' collection

Hog snouters are but a part of Jim Hicks' interest in farm collectibles: Harness hames are also on his short list of favorites. 

"I've always been a horse lover," he says. "My wife says I was born 90 years too late. My granddad never had a tractor, and my dad kept a team of horses through the war years."

With that foundation, when Jim stumbled on to a set of harness hames used on baggage horses in the early days of the Ringling Brothers Circus, he was a goner.

"I've always been fascinated with the decorative detail on those old things," he says. "As a kid, I can remember when the neighbors would form a threshing team. We'd get up early to get the horses ready. I can still remember my dad taking time to run a damp, oily rag over the brass on those harnesses so they would look good. They took pride in those teams."

The harness hames varied by use. Jim's collection, for instance, includes a set designed for use in a coal mine.

"They were for mine mules," he says. "They shaft-mined in the old days, with 36-inch or 48-inch shafts, so they had little mules to pull the carts."