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PATTERN 1917 US ARMY SADDLE BLANKET – VERY NICE SCARCE SPECIMEN WITH ORDNANCE DEPARTMENT LABEL INTACT:  While the 1917 revision of the Ordnance Department manual Horse Equipments and Equipments for Officers and Enlisted Men, continued to describe the Model 1908 Saddle Blanket - “ [it] will be made of pure wool…[the color] to be a mixture of olive-drab shade…[with] an olive-brown border of two stripes…the blanket to be rectangular, 72 by 84 inches…each blanket to have the letters “U.S.” and the bursting shell” – historical events had taken a firm grip on the nation and the entry of the United States into World War One dictated some changes in the equipment in order to simplify and speed up production.   

In 1917, the stripes at the ends and the Ordnance Bomb emblem in the center of the blanket were eliminated, and the resulting plain olive drab saddle blanket with no distinctive markings became the standard.  As with so many other  similar changes in equipment, the army did not deem it necessary to document the change, rather the Model 1908 Saddle Blankets simply stopped being made and were replaced in inventory with the plain Pattern 1917 Saddle Blanket.  Since the army did not assign a new designation to the new pattern of blanket, collectors have titled it the “Pattern 1917” or the “Model 1917” based on the contract year date that appears on the manufacturers’ tags that are present on these relatively scarce blankets.  

From surviving examples, it appears that all of the Pattern 1917 Saddle Blankets were manufactured by civilian firms under contracts let by the Ordnance Department.  At the same time, the soldier’s bedding blankets were also being manufactured by civilian companies under contracts let by the Quartermaster Department – two entirely separate procurement arrangements by two autonomous entities.  The only substantive difference between the two blankets – the saddle blanket and the bedding blanket – is most easily determined by the presence of the contractor’s cloth tag which was sewn to the corner of the blanket.  As any significant use of either blanket would result in these tags being tattered beyond being legible or being lost entirely, finding a blanket with the tag intact – particularly the Pattern 1917 Saddle Blanket – is notable.   

Measuring 69” wide and 77” long, this blanket is very close to the original dimensions and well within any variances in the manufacturing process by the civilian contractors, and within the range of shrinkage normally encountered in these blankets as caused by the aging of the wool and repeated washings through the years.  Clean with bright colors that show no sign of fading, this specimen shows evidence of use and some wear, but it has survived the years in very solid respectable condition.   The most obvious sign of wear and use can be seen in the photographs below – the loss of color along the edges where the blanket was folded in use under the saddle.  There are some small holes and wear spots – all shown in the photos – and all concentrated along the center line of the blanket, again where it received the most wear under the saddle.  There is one line of separation along one of the folds that is approximately 4-5” long but the separation is limited to the edge of the fold and the surrounding material is still strong and the area does not show any signs that it will be a problem or continue to weaken.  None of these wear points affect the overall integrity of the weave nor do they detract from the quality of the blanket on display under your saddle.  

The contractor’s tag is full form and legible, including the name of the contractor, the date of the contract and the all important Ordnance Department insignia.  

As you can imagine, these Pattern 1917 Saddle Blankets did not survive in significant numbers due to the hard use they experienced in service during the Fist World War and the post war years, and as they passed on as surplus to the multitude of post-army agencies, charities and retail stores they were simply used up with little to no regard for their historical value.  Finding one of these saddle blankets today with the Ordnance Department tag intact is notable, and despite the minimal wear present on this specimen, it will certainly be a significant addition to display with any of the 20th Century US Army saddles. SOLD




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