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19TH CENTURY BUCKSKIN JACKET – GREAT FRONTIER APPEARANCE IN EXCELLENT CONDITION:  The kind of special items that are only found in very old collections, this 19th Century Buckskin Jacket was acquired long ago and has been held in the same collection for many years.    

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.   

Buckskin jackets of this very same style were very popular in the west, worn by such high profile luminaries as George Armstrong Custer and several of his officers, as well as Buffalo Bill Cody.  All of these known jackets of that period appear to share the same cut and styling of the military uniforms of the era – not surprising considering the market which the manufacturers were targeting.  The narrow collar, the overall tailored fit, the overlays at the cuffs and pocket fronts and the saw toothed edging used throughout were all characteristics shared by these jackets.  The most dramatic feature which was an obvious nod to the style of the clothing worn by the Plains Tribes was the use of fringe along the backs of the sleeves, over the peak of the shoulders, across the back, and as in the case of this jacket, across the breast.  Capturing the spirit and fashion of the west, these jackets were the iconic signature garment worn by the frontiersmen of the era.   


            (Smithsonian Institute)                     


Officers and scientists of the Black Hills Expedition, August 1874

1 - William Ludlow, Captain, Corps of Engineers

Fashioned from buckskin, this jacket was made in the style consistent with buckskin clothing worn across the American West during the 19th Century, and was assembled with machine sewing, using cotton thread.  The jacket shows evidence of having been worn outdoors in the elements, and the light soiling and aging it displays is commensurate with other buckskin clothing from the mid to late 19th Century.  Fortunately not worn to destruction, this jacket has not been abused or stored improperly, and it presents in remarkably excellent condition.  

In spite of this excellent condition in which this jacket presents, in reality surviving specimens are quite scarce.  This type of frontier clothing was worn in extreme conditions, was often used to complete destruction, survived in very low numbers, and seldom does it appear on the collector’s market.  This 19TH Century Buckskin Jacket evokes any number of colorful images associated with the American West and it would be appropriate to display with a wide scope of Western collections including frontier soldier, scout, gunfighter, gambler, buffalo hunter and the like.  This jacket would make a particularly dramatic display when paired with any of the dark blue uniform shirts or uniform trousers, representative of the combinations of uniform items and personal purchase clothing known to have been worn in the field by the frontier soldiers.   

This jacket presents in excellent condition and the leather is soft and pliable with none of the hardened areas so often found on these old buckskin garments.  The leather is clean and free of any stains or heavy soiling, save for an elongated narrow stain over the right hip on a level with the wearer’s waist line – the location over which the man would have worn his pistol.  While there’s no way to know for sure, the location and shape of this stain makes a very compelling suggestion as to its source.  There is a small hole in the hide immediately below the right shoulder crest, probably the result of the skinning or tanning process.  All of the seams are intact, as are all of the pieces of fringe, with none broken or missing.  The edges of the front plackets, the pockets, the cuff trim, and the bottom are all cut with decorative saw tooth trim.  The front of the jacket is closed at the throat with a single brass button, and down the front with three pairs of decorative ties, each tie finished with a rolled tassel.  The manner these tassels are formed is reminiscent of the tassels on the US Army sabre knots of the Indian War period, perhaps a carry over of the owner’s military service.    

This is a very attractive 19TH Century Buckskin Jacket which evokes any number of colorful images associated with the American West.  Made by a skilled tailor with attention to detail and an eye for frontier fashion of the day, this rare jacket dates from a time when the cut and decoration of a man’s clothing spoke volumes about who he was, and how he regarded himself and this jacket 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, this jacket is definitely a one of a kind offering which would be almost impossible to best. (0111)  $3750



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