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Rodeo Ben the "Polish Cowboy"

beckski 12 | 1,617
2 Jul 2012 #1
Rodeo Ben was known in the United States as the "Polish Cowboy." He worked for Wrangler Jeans Company, during the late 1940's. He tailored outfits for famous cowboys, such as Roy Rogers. He was born in Lodz, Poland in 1893. He died in Philadelphia, PA in 1985. His birth name was Bernard Lichtenstein.

I've included his photo, along with a vintage Wrangler advertisement & Rodeo Ben label. Is anyone familar with Rodeo Ben? Does anyone own any of the clothing items that he had designed?

Please don't change the topic of this thread, by associating his surname as being tied, to Jewish or German origination.

Thank you!

  • Rodeo Ben

  • Wrangler Advertisement

  • Vintage Label
BBman - | 344
2 Jul 2012 #2
Please don't change the topic of this thread, by associating his surname as being tied, to Jewish or German origination.

Kind of hard not to notice this, especially when someone's name is BERNARD LITCHTENSTEIN.
OP beckski 12 | 1,617
2 Jul 2012 #3
A majority of threads become Off Topic. I'd really like to stay On Topic please!
2 Jul 2012 #4
I'm from Alabama, where Wrangler's were worn before they became post-ironic symbols of college students disaffection with le noblesse. That being said, I'm a child of the 80's, the most ironic of generations. Farm hands would buy their Wrangler's right off the store shelf, still folded, they never tried them on. I, on the other hand, would make the annual end-of-summer trek to J.C. Penney's to get my gear for the upcoming school year, trying on everything, agonizing over each and every purchase decision. Wrangler's were not considered cool. Back then, pre-1986, their jeans were designed and manufactured by Blue Bell, and the basic concept of a snug-crotch, stiff-legged jean had remained largely unchanged since WWII. They were always a shade too-blue (even after a dozen washes), and always too stiff in the junk. Rodeo Ben was Jewish, and from the same neighborhood in Philly as my grandfather. He started his own tailoring business there in the 1920's, and was conscripted to Blue Bell in 1946. Here's a sample of his work, going on the Asian market for $262.92, and them again, as worn by Gene and Roy Rogers:

OP beckski 12 | 1,617
2 Jul 2012 #5
worn by Gene and Roy Rogers:

I had visited the Roy Rogers/Dale Evans Museum in Victorville, CA, before it was relocated to Branson, MO
Saw lots of Roy's beautiful cowboy clothing. Too bad labels weren't visible. I'm sure a majority was probably designed by Rodeo Ben.
tomtom01 - | 1
17 Nov 2012 #6
I grew up in the West Oak Lane section of Phila. and attended Ellwood Elementary School which is located just a few blocks from Rodeo Ben. My family shopped at Rodeo Ben many, many times. Mostly to buy shirts and jeans for my two brothers. We would have lunch one block away at a restaurant called the "Hot Shoppe", a sit-down restaurant started by Marriot in the 1950s.Lunch would usually be a hamburger sandwich named the "mighty mac" and to drink, an "A&W" milkshake which I think was made of rootbeer syrup and vanilla ice cream and is one great flavour. It is just a coincidence that yesterday I decidedto watch the movie "Stagecoach" on YouTube and that got me remembering about Rodeo Ben andfor the first time in my life I asked myself why had there been a shop named "Rodeo Ben" on North Broad St. in Philadelphia. I never knew the story behind the shop until I punchedin "rodeo ben phila. into my computer.
OP beckski 12 | 1,617
18 Nov 2012 #7
Awesome info tomtom. Thanks for sharing your nostalgic and fond memories of Rodeo Ben, "The Polish Cowboy."
fes22 - | 1
14 Dec 2012 #8
Rodeo Ben was know to me via my father. He passed about 11 yrs ago, and would have been 95 today. In his youth he lived in an area of Philly called Strawberry Mansion. When he was a young man he was a good friend of, Benard who became known as, Roedo Ben. The Rodeo Ben I am speaking of must have been the original Rodeo Ben's father. I don't know if he was also called Rodeo Ben , but he was a tailor. i heard stories of Bernard, Rodeo Ben, my dad, and other friends sneaking into the tailor shop, and "borrowing" fancy shirts to go out on dates, and then returning them late at night. My memories of "the" Rodeo Ben were of my father visiting him on N. Broad St, and taking me along. There was a cowboy saddle in the store, and I remember my Dad putting me on it while he would chat with Rodeo Ben. I also heard several stories of who were his famous clients, like Gene Autry, and Roy Rogers. These were great memories that stay with you forever.
OP beckski 12 | 1,617
17 Dec 2012 #9
my dad, and other friends sneaking into the tailor shop, and "borrowing" fancy shirts to go out on dates, and then returning them late at night.

Great story about "borrowing" the fancy Rodeo Ben shirts. Those guys must have been dressed to kill, wearing fancy Polish cowboy attire:)
6 Feb 2013 #10
I purchased 5 years ago from E-bay a pair of rodeo Ben designed cowboy striped wool pants with his label; it was made for a male doctor,his name is labeled in also. I'm happy I owned such a piece of Western Hollywood style cowboy pants; I have a pair made by Nudie Cohn and looks like a Roy Rogers's clone; except for the color. I need a Nathan turk designed pair of cowboy pants,ala, Gene Autry style cowboy breeches.
OP beckski 12 | 1,617
11 Feb 2013 #11
How much did you have to pay for the genuine, vintage Rodeo Ben pants?
11 Feb 2013 #12
I was in PL not to long ago , Wrangler jeans are still widely sought after , I dont mean the vintage styles but current Walmart trends here ($30 or so here) , Lee is another cheap brand here but it seems to still make a lot of noise over in PL since the 70s or 80s , I guess some things never go out of style in PL , maybe in time it will be our icon rather than US ;))
13 Mar 2013 #13
To Beckski;

I paid $ 150.00 for Rodeo Ben designed cowboy dress pants; worn by Roy Rogers, Gene Autry & Johnny Mack Brown. ( around the year 2008 ).
OP beckski 12 | 1,617
13 Mar 2013 #14
$150.00 sounds like a bargain, to own a part of Polish Cowboy history.
Rysavy 10 | 308
13 Mar 2013 #15
Wrangler jeans are still widely sought after

Lee and Wrangler are still popular brands amongst real "cowboys" and farmers as well as Carhardts, Maverick, good ol Sears Rustlers (Lee sub?).

Especially slender people, the average American looks like a sausage in those brands. But nothing frames and enhances a cowboy butt like Wrangler.
Cowgirls lean towards Lee.

a search "cowboy butts" and most images have 80% the iconic large tan Wrangler patch.
13 Mar 2013 #16
There's a new Lee-Wrangler store in Wrocław's Sky Tower. Personally, I only wear Levi's. Lee's are too stiff and blue for me.
11 Aug 2013 #17
hi, I remember rodeo ben in phila.
I have a western shirt I have worn 2x
pale blue with a blue bell arm patch and
script writing on the back embroidered by rodeo ben
"wrangler jeans jeans shirts jackets"
I probably should sell it ,,,,,,, mc
rodeo heritage
17 Mar 2014 #18
I work for the Rodeo Heritage Museum in Dublin, Texas. Our claim to fame is Everett Colborn's World Championship Rodeo was headquarter in Dublin, Texas from 1937-1959 with Gene Autry merging with his rodeo company in 1942. In our museum we have a shirt of Everett Colborn made by Rodeo Ben. We also have a photo of him and a cowgirl by the name of Berva Dawn Taylor. She was also a model for Wranglers. We also have a western union telegram to the Colborns. from Rodeo Ben. Colborn's World Championship Rodeo company produced all the big rodeos at that time, including the granddaddy of all time, the Madison Square Garden Rodeo in New York. We have several photos of Gene Autry, Roy Rogers, and other TV and movie stars cowboys but don't know if Rodeo Ben made them their clothes. Probably so since he worked closely with this rodeo..In our World Championship Rodeo programs there are many ads of cowgirls and cowboys that were wrangler models. We also boost we have a photo of the first male model for wranglers. Hope this helps you.
Philly Mark
19 Apr 2014 #19
Growing up in the 60's a shopped at Rodeo Ben numerous times .. Loved the suede fringe coats and jackets ... I've been outta Philly a long time , is the store still there or moved ?
22 Apr 2014 #20
My name is Daria, and
I have a couple of old fashion Rodeo Ben pants and jackets purple and cream color with full colored embrodery.
I am looking to know the historical and financial value for the pieces.
Thank you for your help.
10 Jul 2014 #21
tomtom01. I went to Ellwood for 2 years and my mother took me to Rodeo Ben's at Broad & Godfrey just north of the Hot Shoppe every year for my summer camp "dungarees." Ben was always in the store, which was stacked high with every type of jeans you could imagine. I'd love to connect with you privately....maybe you're someone I knew way back.

(billietoy at gmail)

I tried to find the Polish origins of Ben Lichtenstein. His obituary in the Philadelphia Inquirer doesn't mention it and I have seen references to his being born in Philly, the father as well as the son. I'm trying to remember if he had an accent (like my grandmother who actually was born in Lodz).
24 May 2016 #22
I was raised in West Oaklane, Phila during the 50's. My mother would take me there to buy dungarees for summer camp.
Going to the Hot Shoppe at Godfrey Avenue and getting a Mighty Mo was part of the deal. The Mighty Mo had special sauce (like Russian dressing). This is long before the Big Mac.

Rodeo Ben was always in the store waiting on the customers. In the early 60's I bought my first pair of cowboy boots from him. I always liked the smell (scent) of the store, and Rodeo Ben was always courteous and friendly. I started buying Western shirts with pearl snaps shortly after. I do remember that denim pants were not permitted to be worn in public school so I would put them on as soon as I got home. This site has brought back some fine memories.
WranglerArchive s
9 Jan 2018 #23
Hi, I am the point person for Wrangler's official archives in Greensboro, North Carolina. We are very interested in broadening our knowledge about the origins of our best-selling brand, Wrangler, and are currently purchasing unique items for our archive. I read the thread and noted several of your posts have folks interested in selling items. We are looking for unique Rodeo Ben items, Blue Bell and Wrangler embroidered shirts, jackets, and jeans, and other unique promotional items.

If you have something you're interested in donating, gifting, or selling to the Wrangler Archive, please contact me at:


Evan Morrison
horse heart
14 Feb 2018 #24
So many memories come to mind seeing the Rodeo Ben name. My pride and joy in the 1960's was my Leo line Quarter Horse with my new Rodeo Ben hand tooled western cutting saddle serial #455 on her back with my behind in that big seat...we won so many timed competitions (barrels were our favorite usually running 15 second times) together. I went on to using that saddle gentling wild mustangs in prep for their first rider. I still have that saddle. Its still beautiful & in great shape even after all the use its seen since I was a kid...I've cherished & taken exceptional care of that saddle over 50 years...the only new saddle I ever had in my lifetime with horses. Quality always shows thru the hands of old Rodeo Ben saddle proves that remarkably well
18 May 2018 #25
I remember shopping at Rodeo Ben's as a kid straight through to my adulthood. When my mom took me in to buy jeans she always conversed with Ben in Yiddish. Later when I could afford it I bought a deerskin fringed jacket with the Rodeo Ben logo in it. I still have that jacket but the deerskin shrank a lot 'cause it's much tighter on me now
11 Sep 2018 #26
I worked for Ben & Gerson ( Rodeo Ben Jr ) Lichtenstein for 6 years during my High school and Temple University years. It was a great job for a young guy. Ben & Gerson were terrific people and great businessmen. Ben attention to detail, even in his later years , was amazing.To this day I remember the famous people who came in that store just to get say Hello to Ben and buy some clothing. My fondest memory was when Roy Rogers & Dale Evans stopped in the store to speak with Ben and talk about old days. Ben was in his mid eighties at that time and was thrilled that Roy and Dale stopped their promotional tour of Roy Rogers restaurants (one was directly across Broad street from Ben's store) to stop in and talk about the old times. There were many stories like this and not enough time to tell them all
Temp Tempo
22 Oct 2018 #27
My grandparents knew Rodeo Ben, they lived a few blocks from his store in Philadelphia. Ben is buried not too far from 2 of my great-grandmothers; his Find-a-Grave ID number is 70929967 .
26 Oct 2018 #28
Wasn't there a Rodeo Ben's on 33rd st. in Strawberry Mansion
9 May 2019 #29
He was my grandfather and a real trip. When I was about 3 years old, he took me to see the nearby trains every night after dinner. He taught me how to eat raw raw garlic. Yes; the original store was at 33rd and Columbia Av. I met all the famous cowboys : Roy Rogers, Gene Autry and Hopalong Cassidy who, to my 3 year old eyes, appeared about 10 feet tall. Unfortunately, he was also a terrible misogonist and prevented my mother, currently 96, from going to college. I named my son after him. He was larger than life and I miss him every day.

Bob Freedman
Ann Arbor, MI
23 May 2019 #30
Did Rodeo Ben also make skirts? My friends says she has one but I never heard of a Rodeo Ben skirt before .

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