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MODEL 1904 OFFICER’S LEATHER  SADDLE CLOTH – TRIMMED IN YELLOW LEATHER FOR A  CAVALRY OFFICER:  Following the dimensional and style parameters of the Model 1904 Officer’s Service and Dress Saddle Cloths as they are described in the Ordnance Department Manual No. 1719, Horse Equipments and Equipments for Officers and Enlisted Men, dated 1905, this Officer’s Saddle Cloth features a substantial russet leather body which is trimmed with a border of yellow enameled leather around the entire edge indicating it was used by a cavalry officer. 

Through the years I have encountered several of these leather saddle cloths, all were trimmed in the yellow edging, and they all exhibited the same degree of use and wear, indicating this was an accepted variation and further, that they saw use in the field.   As the officers purchased their own equipment and enjoyed some latitude, this heavier saddle cloth may have been offered by one of the saddle companies and it gained popularity with some members of the officer corps.   

For clarification, even though the outer body of this piece is made of leather, the underside is lined with the standard cotton duck material used for the regulation Model 1904 Officers Saddle Cloths, and this piece was used in the same manner, and for the same purpose, as the Model 1904 Saddle Cloth, so for all intent and purposes, regardless of the material used, the proper term for this piece is a Saddle Cloth..   

In spite of the evidence of use, this saddle cloth has survived in full form and in very nice condition.  The outer layer of russet leather still retains a rich color with a shiny surface, and while showing use with the expected affects of flexing, there is no loss of the surface.  The lower rear corners have matching sets of holes where the officer’s unit or branch insignia was attached.  The yellow enameled border trim is present around the entire edge of both sides.  The yellow enameled finish is somewhat faded, but the color is still very evident over the majority of the surface.  The trim is worn in spots where it was subjected to the chafing of other equipment or straps such as the stirrup straps or the saddle bags, but there are no substantial sections missing.   

The underside of the saddle cloth is lined with the standard khaki cotton duck, which shows consistent evidence of use with soiling, but no damage.  The russet leather spine is fully intact and in place.  There is a section of one of the seams that attach the spine which is loose, but when displayed under a saddle this section of the spine lays as it should from the memory of use, and there’d be no reason to stitch that section.  All of the other seams are intact and strong.    

Having handled dozens of these saddle cloths held in museum and private collections in the course of the research for The American Military Saddle 1776-1945, it was quite apparent that these cloths were subjected to heavy use and wear.  Understandably, the thorough soaking of horse sweat, and the accumulated and concentrated deposits of body salts from the horse rendered these cloths especially prone to deterioration and eventual disposal.  Hence, surviving examples of these cloths in any condition are not common today, making those worthy of displaying relatively scarce.  With the added value of being trimmed for use by a cavalry officer, this Model 1904 Leather Saddle Cloth will be an interesting variant to display with your saddle.   SOLD



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