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19TH CENTURY BUCKSKIN TROUSERS – GREAT FRONTIER APPEARANCE IN VERY GOOD CONDITION:  The kind of special items that are only found in very old collections, these three pairs of 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 buckskin, the pairs of trousers listed below 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.  All three pairs 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.   

In spite of this offering of three pairs at one time, these trousers 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.  These 19TH Century Buckskin Trousers evoke any number of colorful images associated with the American West and they would be appropriate to display with a wide scope of Western collections including frontier soldier, scout, gunfighter, gambler, buffalo hunter and the like.  A pair of these trousers would make a particularly dramatic display when paired with any of the dark blue uniform shirts or coats such as the Pattern 1883 Field Shirt or any of the standard blouses, representative of the combinations of uniform items and personal purchase clothing known to have been worn in the field by the frontier soldiers.   

I have the pairs of trousers listed below, each individually described with accompanying photographs. 

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. 

 

NO. 1 19TH CENTURY BUCKSKIN TROUSERS:  This pair is quite unique in that it has been colored a brick-red with a powdered earth pigment, just as the Native Americans colored their buckskin shirts, leggings and other garments.  The color was well applied, giving the trousers an even color overall, and the color remains vivid in spite of the passage of time. 

The trousers are trimmed with fringe down each side from just below the waist down to the cuff.  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.    

Measuring 26 ˝”along the inseam and with a (approximately) 28” waist, these trousers present in very good condition.  There are two pockets, one on each side of the front.  These are the typical 19TH Century slash pockets with the openings roughly parallel to the waist band.  The fly is secured with 19TH Century metal buttons at the waist and down the length of the fly, with the lowest button missing.  The same buttons are set around the waist band for attaching suspenders and there is an adjustment belt at the center rear of the waist.  The waist band and the pockets are lined with a light cotton patterned material.  The cotton is somewhat faded and shows a little wear, but it is overall intact. The bottoms of the legs are edged with separate pieces of leather which form cuffs.  The outside upper edge of these cuffs is decorated with a saw tooth pattern.   

The leather is generally soft and pliable in the context of its age, with only a couple of small areas down low on the legs which have hardened due to repeated wettings when exposed to the elements.  There is a small (1/2”) hole at the crotch, a wear spot with two small holes over the right buttock, and several small repairs here and there that were necessary during the period of use. 

Overall, this is a very nice pair of 19TH Century Frontier Buckskin Trousers in very respectable condition.  (0509) $900

 

NO. 2  19TH CENTURY BUCKSKIN TROUSERS:  Manufactured of well tanned buckskin, this pair features a very soft texture, almost like a thick, substantial flannel, and a pleasant aged color.  The trousers have been worn out in the elements and have various stains and discolorations one would associate with that sort of life.    

Unique to this pair of trousers is a treatment on both of the lower legs.  On the back of each leg, beginning from below the knee down to the cuff, there is a series of pairs of holes, each pair with a leather thong knotted through them.  I believe these were used to reduce the diameter of the trouser legs so that they would fit more easily down into the man’s boot tops.  By tightening the thongs, the trouser leg material was gathered up more tightly against the leg, making it easier to push the foot and leg down into the boot.  Interestingly, there is an identical set of holes which were on the front of the leg as well, but at some point in time, these sets were sewed close, the owner of the trousers having changed his mind as to how he would use this arrangement. 

Measuring 30”along the inseam and with a (approximately) 30” waist, these trousers present in very good condition.  There are two pockets on the front, one on each side of the front.  These are a variation of the typical 19TH Century slash pockets, in that while the openings are roughly parallel to the waist band, they also have a triangular flap that buttons up at the waist band to secure the contents.  There is a third pocket on the back of the trousers, just over the right buttock.  The fly is secured with 19TH century metal buttons at the waist and down the length of the fly.  The same metal buttons are set around the waist band for attaching suspenders.  There is an adjustable gusset in the center back of the waist band.  The waist band is lined, and the pocket interiors are fashioned from, the same light weight dark brown cotton canvas.  This material is almost identical to the material used to manufacture the canvas overcoats and winter hoods issued to the army during the late Indian Wars.  The cotton is in remarkably excellent condition and the pockets are full form.   

The leather is very soft and pliable in the context of its age.  There is a 1” hole in the front of the left leg, approximately 10” up from the cuff, but no other significant damage or holes.  

Overall, this is a very nice pair of 19TH Century Frontier Buckskin Trousers in very respectable condition.  (0508) $850

 

NO. 3  19TH CENTURY BUCKSKIN TROUSERS:  Manufactured of what appears to be Native Tanned buckskin, this pair features a very soft texture, almost like a thick, substantial flannel, and a pleasant natural light color.  The trousers have been worn out in the elements and the front and lower legs have various stains and discolorations one would associate with that sort of life.    

The trousers are trimmed with fringe down each side from just below the waist down to just above the cuff.  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.    

Measuring 29 ˝”along the inseam and with a (approximately) 30” waist, these trousers present in very good condition.  There are two pockets, one on each side of the front.  These are the typical 19TH Century slash pockets with the openings roughly parallel to the waist band.  There is a third pocket just to the right of the fly, quite small and set right at the waist band, probably for carrying a watch.  The fly is secured with 19TH century metal buttons at the waist and down the length of the fly, with the lowest button being made of bone.  The same metal buttons are set around the waist band for attaching suspenders and there are the stubs remaining where an adjustment belt was attached at the center rear of the waist.  The pocket interiors are fashioned from light weight cotton canvas, much like the material used to make the condiment bags used by the army for salt, etc.  The cotton is in remarkably good condition and the pockets are full form.   

The leather is very soft and pliable in the context of its age.  There are several small repairs here and there that were necessary during the period of use, but no significant damage or holes. 

Overall, this is a very nice pair of 19TH Century Frontier Buckskin Trousers in very respectable condition.  SOLD

 

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