Mc Pheeters Antique Militaria
Home Page About Us Ordering Information Links



US ARMY CAVALRY BAND MUSICIAN BUSBY -  IN USE BY THE FRONTIER ARMY BANDS DURING THE INDIAN WAR ERA – A VERY STRIKING CAVALRY UNIFORM ITEM NOT COMMONLY ENCOUNTERED – EXCELLENT SPECIMEN WITH ITS ORIGINAL JAPANNED METAL CANISTER: While not one of the regulation uniform hats or helmets, there exists ample record that this Band Musician’s Busby was proudly worn by the Indian Wars era mounted musicians, in this case the cavalry.  There had been a long standing practice in the 19TH Century U.S. Army of embellishing the band uniforms beyond what was considered regulation.  Regimental commanders were allowed to “make such additions of ornaments” to their musicians’ uniforms, with the limitation that these additions were not to be paid for from the annually appropriated uniform allotment funds.  It is unknown how many regiments of the regular army and state militia units outfitted their bands in these busbies, however there is no doubt these fancy fur hats, trimmed in the branch color and in a style consistent with the decorations on the Model 1881 Dress Helmets, saw more than isolated use. 

Documenting the presence on the western frontier and the use of busbies by regular army bands, these period images, ca. 1890’s, captured two musicians of the 2ND US Cavalry Regiment Band mounted on their horses in the same paddock area of Fort Wingate, New Mexico Territory.  Both men wear busbies, presumably trimmed in yellow in keeping with the color of trim used on other cavalry uniforming.   



“Busby” is the English term for the distinctive headdress normally associated with European Hussar mounted units which came to wide use by the armies of the Napoleonic period.  The name is generally applied to a cylindrical fur cap having a bag of colored cloth attached in such a manner as it could be filled with sand and draped over the right shoulder as a defense against sabre cuts.  One explanation for the origin of the name “Busby” seems to make the most sense – the British hussar cap of the early 19TH Century was named after the hatter who supplied the officer’s version of the cap – W. Busby of the Strand, London.  All that being said, another reference provided that “Busby” has been a common male name of English origin which translates from the Old English as “shrub farm” – an association that seems possible given the appearance of the cap.   

This Indian Wars Era United States Army Cavalry Band Busby presents in excellent condition.  The fur is completely intact with no loss of hair or bald spots.   

The yellow wool cap crown and distinctive side “bag” are complete with no separation or loss, and the material retains a bright vibrant color.  There is some minor moth tracking on the surface of the wool, but there are no holes, other damage or soiling.  The bag retains the correct wool covered button.  The cap is decorated with the complete set of worsted wool yellow cords, still in the original braid and with the wool cord covered toggle intact.  As it appears in the photographs below, this toggle is engaged in a retention loop at the top edge of the side of the cap.  When worn, this toggle would be let down to fasten through a loop in the chest cords on the soldier’s uniform coat, securing the cap to the soldier’s person should the cap be knocked off his head.    

The Busby is decorated on the front with a black velveteen oval bearing the letter “A” and surrounded by gold bullion cord.  Below the oval is a set of original Pattern 1851 Cavalry crossed sabres, still full form with no misshaping and having a naturally aged even patina.  There is a Model 1881 Cavalry Dress Helmet side button mounted on each side of the cap, from which depends the brass interlocking-ring chin strap.  The brass rings are all intact with no loss and they are still attached to the supporting leather strap.  The straps show evidence of use and having been worn, however both are full length with no particular weak points, and the buckle and original leather tip are both intact.   

The black horse hair plume, the same plume as shown in the 2ND Cavalry Band photographs above, is full form and still tightly bound with no loss of hair.  The black color of the hair and the wool cord wrapping is still vibrant, the wrapping shows no wear or fraying, and the brass mounting loop is intact and tightly attached.   

The reddish brown leather combination sweat band/crown support is in excellent condition as is the lining of the crown.  The leather shows no wear, staining or other signs of extensive use or wear, and the original adjustment draw cord is fully intact.  The black crown lining is similarly intact, showing no sign of age or wear, with a fully legible embossed silver colored maker’s mark applied around the integral air vent in the crown.   

The Busby is complete with the japanned enameled tin canister.  The canister is full form with no significant dents, open seams, or other damage and it retains the full enameled finish, with the only wear appearing on the bottom of the canister, caused by shelf wear.  The lid functions properly, the carrying handle is firmly attached and intact, as is the latch on the front of the canister.  The plume holder is present on the inside of the lid and it is likewise solidly attached and full form.  The lid bears the embossed maker’s tag.   

Overall, this is an especially striking Indian Wars era Cavalry Band Busby which has survived in excellent condition.  Whether displayed with other Indian Wars Cavalry Band material or added to a US Army headgear display, this Busby will be a significant addition to your collection.  SOLD



Ordering Instructions

Identified Items  


Edged Weapons

Saddles and Horse Equipment


Collectors Ammunition

Uniforms, Insignia, Hats

Canteens and Mess Gear

Gun tools, Bullet molds and Parts

Field Equipment and Artillery

Original Ordnance Manuals, and Photos 

US Army Medical

Reference Books and Reprints