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19TH CENTURY EMBROIDERED BUCKSKIN TROUSERS – WONDERFUL  FRONTIER CLOTHING WITH A CLASSIC APPEARANCE IN VERY GOOD CONDITION:  One of those special items that are only found in very old collections, these 19th Century Buckskin Trousers were acquired long ago and have been salted away in the same collection for decades.    

The private or commercial manufacture of buckskin clothing such as coats, vests, and trousers dates back to the early years of our nation’s history, and although surprising to most collectors, the use of sewing machines to produce this clothing began commensurate with the introduction of those early time saving machines.  In addition to the clothing made by family members for their personal use, and the clothing produced in small shops throughout the frontier, there were large firms in the eastern cities which were dedicated to meeting the large demand for buckskin clothing.  Sales were brisk to frontiersmen, the immigrant trains headed west, and soldiers and officers alike in the army, for all of these consumers recognized the comfortable, durable and protective qualities of buckskin clothing. 

Dated 1876, this period photograph (above) captured Capt. Julius Wilmot Mason (right), Co. K, 5TH US Cavalry Regiment and a companion officer on campaign in the field.  The 5TH Cavalry was posted on the northern plains in 1876 and they spent much of that summer and fall in the field chasing the hostiles who had defeated the 7TH Cavalry at the Little Big Horn.  Both of these officers are dressed in the manner of seasoned campaigners, and of special interest, the unidentified officer on the left is wearing a pair of buckskin trousers which are fringed down the outside of each leg – photographic evidence that these buckskin trousers were worn by army personnel on the frontier.   

Fashioned from native tanned buckskin - very likely brain tanned - these trousers were made in the style consistent with buckskin clothing worn across the American West during the 19th Century, and were assembled with machine sewing, using cotton thread.  The trousers show evidence of having been worn outdoors in the elements, and the light soiling and aging they display is commensurate with other buckskin clothing from the mid to late 19th Century.  They were not worn to destruction, they have not been abused or stored improperly, and they present in remarkably very good condition.   

Highlighting the upper section of the trousers is a series of embroidered patterns in red and blue thread.  The patterns are executed in extremely fine stitches, obviously hand applied by a skilled artist.  The red thread remains vivid, and the blue has faded slightly with age.  This embroidery suggests a great deal about the man who wore these trousers.  Possibly he was a Southwestern pistolero in El Paso, Santa Fe, or Tucson, or an eccentric army officer in some remote frontier post given to such excesses in his uniforming, or perhaps a performer in one of the many Wild West shows of the era – whatever the situation of the owner, he cut a fine figure and made quite a statement in these trousers.     

The waist band, the area around the fly and the cuffs of the legs are all embellished with an additional layer of matching buckskin cut with decorative edges and sewn in place with lines of decorative stitching.  Not only did these overlays create a dimensional decoration to these areas, but the additional layer served to reinforce these areas which would be subjected to the most wear.      

The pants are trimmed with fringe along the bottom of the front and back pocket openings, across the hip line on the front and back, and along the outside seams of the legs.  The fringe is overall soft and pliable, and the vast majority of the strands are present and full length – both unusual qualities in leather clothing of this vintage.    

The edges of the front and back pocket openings are trimmed in scarlet material which is generally intact with minor points of wear, and the corners of the pocket openings are reinforced with a decorative triangle of brown velvet.   

Finally, the trousers are trimmed with ¼” in diameter brass shoe buttons on each side of the fly, along the bottom of the back pocket openings, and along the outside seam of both legs.  The buttons along the leg seams are anchored in hand embroidered faux button holes – no button hole, but rather a decorative outline of a button hole.  All of the buttons are present on each side of the fly and along the back pocket openings, and most of those along the leg seam are present, with only a few missing at the lower extreme of the legs where they would have been exposed to the most wear.  It is worth noting that brass shoe buttons were one of the earlier and most consistent of the trade goods carried out west by the traveling fur traders and by those who established trading posts near the Indian reservations.   

Measuring 27” along the inseam and with a (approximately) 28” waist, these trousers present in very good condition.  The leather is soft and pliable with only a couple of small areas down low on the legs which have hardened due to repeated wettings when exposed to the elements.  The rear of the waist band has suffered some wear to the leather and this area has been reinforced with two patches.  There is a small (1/2”) wear opening at the crotch that isn’t visible, and a small split (3/4” long) low on the right leg, just above the cuff.  The bottom edge of the rear of left leg has wear where the owner apparently walked on the edge with the heel of his boot or moccasin.  The fly is secured with a 19TH century metal button at the waist and with bone buttons down the length of the fly.   

This is a very attractive pair of 19TH Century Buckskin Trousers which evoke any number of colorful images associated with the American West.  From a time when the cut and decoration of a man’s clothing spoke volumes about who he was, and how he regarded himself, these trousers must have made quite the statement.  Appropriate to display with a wide scope of Western collections including frontier soldier, scout, gunfighter, gambler, buffalo hunter and the like, these trousers are definitely a one of a kind offering which would be difficult to best.  (0505)  $1550

NOTE:  To say that photographing material of any kind - wool or leather - is a challenge is an understatement.  Normal lighting is seldom sufficient 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 item, I have to lighten the contrast of the photograph which in turn causes the even color of the buckskin to appear discolored or blotchy when such is not the case.  The color of these trousers is even and consistent except where naturally stained or discolored through period use.  Trust that you will not be disappointed in these trousers. 



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