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19TH CENTURY BLACK LEATHER SADDLE VALISE – ca. 1850-1870 – AN EXCELLENT ATTRACTIVE SPECIMEN APPROPRIATE FOR DISPLAY WITH ANY AMERICAN MILITARY OFFICERS’ SADDLE OR EARLY POST CIVIL WAR WESTERN SADDLE:  This Saddle Valise presents in excellent condition, having defied the passage of time, the turbulent years of the mid-19TH century which consumed so much of the early horse equipment through hard use, and the neglect and poor storage in the years that followed which eventually destroyed what little remained.      

This valise has all the appearances of those associated with the antebellum era, and is certainly of the style carried by US military officers as early as the War of 1812 and through the mid-19TH Century across the border and along the Santa Fe Trail during the Mexican War period, and this enduring style would be very appropriate to complete a Civil War Officer’s Saddle – both Union and Confederate.  While not a regulation army pattern, this valise would have appealed to officers who, of course, were required to purchase their own horse equipment, and to those enlisted men who could afford to add to their issued equipment or brought this sort of equipment from home.   

The use of valises is well documented during the Civil War years, and it stands to reason that they did not suddenly fall from favor and use at the end of the war as the country turned its attention to the expanding West.  However, as the impressions of so many collectors were first formed by the Western themed movies, its understandable why we found it so easy to believe that all the mountain men, buffalo hunters and cowboys – certainly John Wayne, Richard Widmark, Clint Eastwood and the rest – survived in the mountains and on the plains with only what they could carry in their relatively small saddle bags.  What was never completely explained in the movies was the transition from the daylight traveling scenes when they needed little more than their guns, saddle and horse, to the camp fire scenes at night when they suddenly had a skillet, coffee pot, cups, a Dutch oven, and all the makings for biscuits, bacon, beans and coffee…..all without the benefit or carrying capacity of a pair of saddlebags the size of Samsonite Luggage or a pack horse.  I have come to suspect valises were far more common than have been depicted, and they continued in use in the West, especially among the explorers and travelers who valued their creature comforts.  From a practical standpoint, a valise such as the one offered here would be entirely appropriate for display on any of the post-Civil War civilian saddles and would probably be more accurate than most Western collectors have been led to believe.    

This valise has survived in excellent condition - directly attributable to the maker - constructed of heavy bridle leather and as well made as any piece of expensive luggage of the period.  This valise was likely one of the more expensive offerings at the time it was made.   

Based on the condition and the lack of any apparent wear, I am led to believe this valise was originally collected as “new old stock” from one of the uniform, saddlery, or military equipment stores in the East which catered to the officer corps.  As officers were expected to provide their own uniforming and equipment, there was a brisk trade conducted at retail shops in any of the large eastern cities.  After the turn of the 20TH Century, as these shops began to close their remaining stock passed into the hands of the collecting world, and I believe such was the case with this valise. 

When I purchased it, it was folded lengthwise and presented as if it had been packed flat.  I surmise that it was one of several valises manufactured at the same leather shop which were packed flat, several to a crate or box, and shipped to the retailer who only unpacked them as he required new stock for the shelves.  This valise was apparently never unpacked and remained flat until I acquired it.  Fortunately, the leather was still supple and I was able to expand it to its intended shape.  I have positioned two lightweight wood braces inside the valise which place no stress on the leather and eventually the valise will hold its shape without the braces.  In the meantime, the braces are not visible with the valise on display and do not affect the appearance or integrity of the valise.   

Measuring 18“long, 7 ½” wide, and 7 ¼” high, this is one of the larger valises that I have handled.  The body, flap, ends and straps are fashioned from substantial weight leather that is still very supple, and the leather surfaces are still bright with a shiny finish, with no crazing or flaking.  It is very solid with no rot or deterioration, and all of the seams are intact.  The two closing straps on the outer flap with their matching iron buckles are present, intact, and full length.  On the reverse along the top edge, there are two heavy leather loops with heavy gauge brass rings riveted to the back panel, which were used as anchors for the straps which attached the valise to the cantle of the saddle.  

Valises of this vintage simply did not survive in any appreciable numbers and finding one this size and in this remarkable condition is unusual.  This exceptionally nice valise would display quite nicely with any US military saddle collection, especially mounted on the cantle of a Ringgold or Grimsley Saddle, any one of the many saddles used by Civil War Officers, and the saddles ridden on the Western Frontier.  (0122)  $850






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