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MODEL 1896 SADDLE BAGS – VERY SOLID BLACK LEATHER SET  – MARKED ROCK ISLAND ARSENAL:  A necessary piece of horse equipment to complete your Spanish American War saddle display, this set of Model 1896 Saddlebags has survived in respectable condition.  Introduced at the end of the 19th Century in response to complaints that the opening of the earlier Model 1885 Saddle Bags were too narrow, therefore making it difficult to access the contents, the Model 1896 Saddlebags featured a gusset with a wider top, providing for a larger opening into the bag.  These bags were manufactured for a relatively short period of roughly six years in black leather, when in 1902 when the army regulations directed the change from black to russet colored leather.  This same pattern continued in use and after the change to russet leather they became the early pattern Model 1904 Saddlebags.  Due to the heavy use the Model 1896 Saddlebags saw during the Spanish American War, and the relatively short period of manufacture, they are not commonly encountered.       

This set of bags is in very good condition with full pliable outer flaps complete with all of the full length closing billets, all of the buckles, and both tie down rings.  The flaps are both embossed with a legible "US" in the oval.  The interior liners are present and intact, and are the correct pattern – that is, the near side liner has the internal pockets for the mess utensils and off side liner is properly without these pockets.  The liners are a matched pair and are made of the brown cotton duck material similar to that of the Indian War haversacks, and not the white canvas liners used in the later Model 1904 Saddlebags. All four of the liner attachment buttons on both bags are present and intact.  The upper corners of the bag bodies, where the top of the gussets attach, are solid and intact - an area that often shows weakness or tearing.  The gussets are smooth and very pliable, with the off side bag gusset completely intact, and the near side bag gusset showing some wear at the bottom of the bag.  The wear on the one bag, visible in the photographs below, is characteristic of this lighter gusset leather and does not affect the display quality or integrity of the bag. 

The seat, or yoke connecting the two bags that passes across the back of the saddle, is strong and complete with both leather keys used to secure the saddlebags to the foot loops on the rear sidebar extensions of the saddle, and both footloop reinforcement plates intact.  The yoke is legibly stamped “ROCK ISLAND ARSENAL” adjacent to the near side, or left, foot loop slot.  The yoke is also stamped “HO” or “HQ” and “42” in two places along the rear edge of the yoke, likely a unit inventory numbers. 

Overall, the leather surfaces are smooth, bright and shiny, and the leather is supple.  All of the seams are intact and this set is strong, very clean and will display very well. 

Model 1896 Saddlebags have never been common due to the service in tropical climates that many of them were subjected to, and this is a set with all of the important components intact.  Overall, this is a very nice, attractive set of saddlebags that has survived service in the field in respectable condition and will definitely enhance the appearance and value of your Spanish American War Model 1896 McClellan saddle. (1002)  $850



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