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MODEL 1898 TROPICAL INFANTRY UNIFORM BLOUSE – SCARCE EARLY PATTERN IN KHAKI TRIMMED WITH BLUE COLLAR, SHOULDER STRAPS, POCKET FLAPS AND CUFFS – VERY GOOD CONDITION:  Approved at the start of the Spanish American War, these khaki colored, cotton blouses were adopted with the issue of General Order No. 39 on May 9, 1898.  Ordered to be trimmed with the color of the branch of service (G.O. 51, May 23, 1898), the collar, shoulder straps, breast pocket flaps and cuffs of these blouses were made in dark blue for the staff departments and general staff, yellow for cavalry, red for artillery, and sky blue for infantry.  Providing a very identifiable uniform for each branch, unfortunately it was this very same distinction that resulted in a very short service life for these uniforms, making them quite scarce today.   

As the uniforms were subjected to wear in the field, the army quickly discovered that the wear out period for cavalry and infantry soldiers in the field was considerably shorter than it was for artillery and staff department soldiers, resulting in a serious shortage of replacement uniforms for the mounted and foot troops while an overabundance of artillery and staff uniforms sat unissued in storage.  Due to the way in which this pattern of coat was trimmed, changing the color of the facings in order to meet the need for uniforms was not practical.   

As a result, less than two months later, on July 15, 1898, the Secretary of War issued a circular directing that the colored facings be eliminated and replaced with colored detachable shoulder tabs that could be issued with the later pattern all khaki coats as appropriate for the soldier’s particular branch of service.  

Nominally made for less than two months - and then most of those that were made being subjected to the severe use and wear of combat soldiers in a tropical environment - it is not surprising that these early Pattern 1898 Tropical Blouses survive today in relatively low numbers and when found, often show evidence of hard use in the field.  Further reducing the likelihood of survival of these early pattern blouses, was the common practice of issuing new uniforms to troops returning from the tropics and requiring that their old uniforms be burned to prevent the introduction and spread of disease within the continental United States.   

This khaki cotton blouse follows the pattern introduced by G.O. No.’s 39 and 51, and intended for issue to an enlisted infantry soldier, is trimmed with sky blue facing on the collar, shoulder straps, pocket flaps and cuffs.  While the blouse shows evidence of issue and use, this specimen shows none of the dramatic fading and wear associated with prolonged wear in the tropics.  All of the facings are intact with no appreciable fading – just a trace of very light fading at the edges of the collar and the shoulder tabs - and no wear to the edges of the collar, cuffs, pocket flap edges, and along the bottom edge of the coat.  The fabric is in overall excellent condition, with some minor soiling to the front and the lower sleeves.  All of the original buttons are present on the shoulder straps, front, pocket flaps, and the belt, and are mounted with split rings.  The original khaki belt is present, full form and in excellent condition.      

Introduced as our army was deployed to far away lands and subjected to sweltering tropical heat, this blouse shows some evidence of the soldier’s service, but it has survived in extremely nice condition, and given the scarcity of these color trimmed uniforms, it will be a particularly nice addition to a Spanish American War display.  SOLD

NOTE:  To say that photographing uniforms is a challenge is an understatement.  In normal lighting, the cloth absorbs the light and none of the finer features or condition details can be seen clearly.  In order to highlight the features and provide you with an accurate view of the material, I have to lighten the contrast of the photograph which in turn causes even colored cloth to appear faded or discolored when such is not the case.  This coat is has an even khaki color throughout as is seen in the close up photographs of the light blue trim. 

 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

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