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PATTERN 1876 CONTRACT US ARMY MOUNTED TROOPER’S BOOTS –  VERY ATTRACTIVE PAIRS IN EXCELLENT CONDITION:  These are excellent pairs of US Army Pattern 1876 Boots as worn by the mounted enlisted men during the height of the Indian War period. 

One of the little known side bars in the story of the footwear worn by the soldiers in the 19th Century army, these Pattern 1876 Contract US Army Boots for Mounted Soldiers represent one of the evolutions of development as the army sought a serviceable, durable and comfortable boot for the troops.  Thanks to the research and efforts of Sidney Brinckerhoff, this often overlooked boot pattern is documented in his detailed monograph, Boots and Shoes of the Frontier Soldier. 

While the circumstances are not entirely clear, it is known that in the mid-1870’s the army was experiencing difficulty in settling on a serviceable pattern of boot and producing sufficient quantities to maintain a steady supply.  Whatever the reason, in October of 1875 the Acting Quartermaster General of the Army ordered an “emergency purchase” on the open market of 10,000 pairs of boots, to be obtained under contract from four civilian manufacturers.  Two of the contractors successfully fulfilled their orders, but due to the Quartermaster relaxing certain standards in order to ensure the contracts were filled in a timely manner, the boots provided by the other two contractors were rejected upon delivery due to inferior workmanship and quality.  A subsequent board of officers convened to review the situation decided to acquire the rejected boots – apparently still required in order to meet the needs of the army – but at a reduced price.  While the exact specifications of these contract boots are not known, they generally followed those of the Pattern of 1876 Mounted Boots.   

Fortunately, Brinckerhoff provides photographs of two pairs of these Pattern 1876 Contract Boots in the above cited reference.  Keeping in mind that the emergency procurement order went to four contractors, and that certain standards were relaxed, a degree of difference between each maker is not only normal, but is to be expected.   

Soldiers’ footwear is generally not something that survived his period of service, or his post-military life, in great numbers – in most cases, these boots were simply too utilitarian to be saved.  Comparatively little US Army 19th Century footwear survives today and even fewer examples of mounted soldier’s boots in any condition are available for purchase by the private collector.  The 1876 Contract Mounted Soldier’s Boots offered here present as  prime examples of the footwear that bore the Frontier Army across the American West on any of the famous campaigns during the height of the Indian Wars. 

While anything but common, I am fortunate enough to be able to offer the two pairs of 1876 Contract Mounted Soldier’s Boots, each described in detail below with accompanying photographs. 

 

NO. 1  PATTERN 1876 CONTRACT US ARMY MOUNTED TROOPER’S BOOTS – A VERY ATTRACTIVE PAIR IN EXCELLENT CONDITION:  The pair of boots offered here substantially matches the style, pattern and design of the those two reference pairs pictured by Brinckerhoff in the above cited reference.  

The front upper of each boot has the fold crease running from the toe to the top of the boot, another characteristic of these 19Th Century US Army boots.  This fold served some purpose during the manufacturing process, perhaps to center the boot on the last prior to stitching the upper to the sole.  The boot tops are of the diameter of the Pattern 1876 produced by the army, increased from the diameter of the Civil War boots and still again larger than that of the Pattern 1872 Boots in order to better accommodate the wearing of the soldier’s pant legs inside the boot tops.   

In excellent condition, the boots are made with a one piece front and one piece back, sewn along the sides with a reinforcing welt to protect the stitches.  The leather on both boots is supple, has not hardened, and the finish is overall excellent.  The uppers are intact with none of the holes, cracks, splits, open seams or other damage associated with heavy  wear, with the exception of a small wear point at the bottom of the right side of the upper “knee lobe” on the left hand boot, and a small wear point on the top rear edge of the right boot.  Both boot pulls are present on both boots, all still strong and supple with no weak points.  The original soles and heels show minimal wear.  Both boots are stamped with the numerals 10 and 3.  I assume, given the length of the boots, the "10" indicates the size and the "3" may be a unit identification stamp.

That this pair of boots survives today in the excellent condition they do is nothing short of remarkable.  Capturing the character of the frontier soldier who wore them, this pair of boots will be a historic addition to your Indian War Cavalry display.  (0409)  $2295

 

NO. 2  PATTERN 1876 CONTRACT US ARMY MOUNTED TROOPER’S BOOTS – AN ATTRACTIVE PAIR IN VERY GOOD CONDITION:  The pair of boots offered here substantially matches the style, pattern and design of the those two reference pairs pictured by Brinckerhoff in the above cited reference.  

The front upper of each boot has the fold crease running from the toe to the top of the boot, another characteristic of these 19Th Century US Army boots.  This fold served some purpose during the manufacturing process, perhaps to center the boot on the last prior to stitching the upper to the sole.  The boot tops are of the diameter of the Pattern 1876 produced by the army, increased from the diameter of the Civil War boots and still again larger than that of the Pattern 1872 Boots in order to better accommodate the wearing of the soldier’s pant legs inside the boot tops.   

The boots are made with a one piece front and one piece back, with a heavier "heel counter" sewn at the bottom of the back panel.  The seams along the sides are sewn with a reinforcing welt to protect the stitches.  The leather on both boots is supple, has not hardened, and the finish is overall excellent. 

This pair of boots shows evidence of having been worn in the field.  The uppers of both boots are very nice and intact with none of the holes, cracks, splits, open seams or other damage associated with heavy wear.  The right boot is missing the outside pull loop and there is a half-moon shaped piece of leather missing from the center of the top rear edge of the upper.  The shape of the missing piece and that it is located in the center of the back panel's top edge, these is little doubt that it was intentionally cut out by the soldier in order to relieve a spot where the edge was wearing against his leg, possibly the site of a previous injury or wound. 

The top of the outside corner of the back panel of the left boot has a triangle of leather pieced in under the finger pull, and at first glance it appears as an old repair.  Once again, Brinckerhoff’s research reveals that this piece of leather was not a repair, but rather part of the original manufacturing process.  On page 13, he shows a pair of what he describes as “1876 officer’s quality [boots]”, and the left boot of that pair shows this same triangular piece, sewn in the same manner, in the same location as on the right boot of this pair.  During the Indian War era, finances were a constant source of concern and the army made every effort to conserve expensive commodities such as leather.  When the patterns were laid out on the hides for cutting, that the pattern extended past the edge of the hide for this small amount would not have been sufficient for the cost-mindful workers to discard the hide.  Rather, they simply cut a piece to fill the void and stitched it in place.  At this place on the boot, such an addition would not compromise the comfort, strength or durability of the boot, nor did it affect the appearance.   

After discovering this feature and finding the photograph of the second pair, I realized I had seen this same pieced-in treatment on an item in my personal collection.  Years ago I purchased a Northern Plains beaded bag fashioned from what I recognized at the time of purchase as two pieces of army boot top leather.  The bag, measuring 10” long by 6” high, is sewn with sinew around the bottom and the sides, and is then beaded along those edges and along the open top.  The stitching pattern of the boot pulls (which were removed) is visible in the waxed calf black leather, and there is no doubt the maker of the bag salvaged the leather from a pair of high topped boots.  While the balance of the stitching on the bag is all hand done with sinew, and definitely of the period, there is a short 2” section of machine stitching, like the stitching which at one time anchored the boot pulls, where a triangular piece of leather was added to the main piece.  Before understanding that these additions were commonly executed in the manufacture of these boots, I had no context to understand this small stitched piece on the bag, but now this small triangular patch further explains the history of this bag as having been made from tops of a pair of Indian Wars era army boots. 

Both boots were resoled and heeled during their service life, with the heel caps being set with square headed nails and the half soles set with wooden pegs.  The boots were then heavily worn subsequent to these repairs, the wear particularly notable under the ball of each foot.  It is worthy to note that the ball of the feet, and therefore the specific wear spots on these soles, are the exact points where a soldier's feet would rest and chafe against the wooden tread of his stirrups - indicating this cavalry trooper rode many miles in these boots.  He continued to wear these boots after he wore through the half soles, and the wear continued up into the first full layer of sole leather on both boots, exposing a section of the stitching which were applied when the boots were originally made.  The openings created by this additional wear would have allowed dirt, water, mud and snow in which would have caused him considerable discomfort, but the necessity of his situation required him to continue to wear them.  I suspect that once he returned to the post after that campaign, this pair of boots were considered too far gone to bother repairing, and he received a new pair.  That alone may be the reason this pair has survived in the unaltered condition which they have.  

That this pair of boots were not discarded, and survived to exist in the collector's market today, presents a good opportunity to acquire an excellent example of US Army footwear as they existed on the frontier.  This pair certainly illustrates the true living and clothing conditions of the Indian Wars cavalry soldier who wore them, and they will be an evocative addition to your Indian War Cavalry display.  (0928)  $1875

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

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