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PATTERN 1876 CONTRACT US ARMY MOUNTED TROOPER’S BOOTS – A VERY ATTRACTIVE PAIR IN EXCELLENT CONDITION:  This is an excellent pair of US Army Pattern 1876 Boots as worn by the mounted enlisted men during the height of the Indian War period. 

One of the little known side bars in the story of the footwear worn by the soldiers in the 19th Century army, these Pattern 1876 Contract US Army Boots for Mounted Soldiers represent one of the evolutions of development as the army sought a serviceable, durable and comfortable boot for the troops.  Thanks to the research and efforts of Sidney Brinckerhoff, this often overlooked boot pattern is documented in his detailed monograph, Boots and Shoes of the Frontier Soldier. 

While the circumstances are not entirely clear, it is known that in the mid-1870’s the army was experiencing difficulty in settling on a serviceable pattern of boot and producing sufficient quantities to maintain a steady supply.  Whatever the reason, in October of 1875 the Acting Quartermaster General of the Army ordered an “emergency purchase” on the open market of 10,000 pairs of boots, to be obtained under contract from four civilian manufacturers.  Two of the contractors successfully fulfilled their orders, but due to the Quartermaster relaxing certain standards in order to ensure the contracts were filled in a timely manner, the boots provided by the other two contractors were rejected upon delivery due to inferior workmanship and quality.  A subsequent board of officers convened to review the situation decided to acquire the rejected boots – apparently still required in order to meet the needs of the army – but at a reduced price.  While the exact specifications of these contract boots are not known, they generally followed those of the Pattern of 1876 Mounted Boots.   

Fortunately, Brinckerhoff provides photographs of two pairs of these Pattern 1876 Contract Boots in the above cited reference, and the pair of boots offered here substantially matches the style, pattern and design of the those two reference pairs pictured by Brinckerhoff.  Keeping in mind that the emergency procurement order went to four contractors, and that certain standards were relaxed, a degree of difference between each maker is not only normal, but is to be expected.   

The right boot of this pair shows wear on the outside of upper just above the sole, where this soldier’s boot would have rested and worn against the wooden frame of his stirrup, confirming that these boots were worn by a mounted soldier.  The front upper of each boot has the fold crease running from the toe to the top of the boot, another characteristic of these 19Th Century US Army boots.  This fold served some purpose during the manufacturing process, perhaps to center the boot on the last prior to stitching the upper to the sole.  The boot tops are of the diameter of the Pattern 1876 produced by the army, increased from the diameter of the Civil War boots and again larger than that of the Pattern 1872 Boots in order to better accommodate the wearing of the soldier’s pant legs inside the boot tops.   

The boots are in excellent condition, showing minimal wear to what appears to be the original soles and heels.  The uppers are intact with none of the characteristic heavy wear around the toe area, and the leather on both boots is supple, has not hardened, and the finish is overall excellent.  With the exception of the wear point on the right boot noted above, the uppers are free from any holes, cracks, splits, open seams or other damage and wear.  The boots are made with a one piece front and one piece back, sewn along the sides with a reinforcing welt to protect the stitches.  The boot pulls are missing from both boots and the points where all four pulls were stitched to the boots show no damage or wear, and there is no tearing to the boot leather, leaving me to believe all four were intentionally removed by the soldier.  Shortening over long billets or removing unnecessary straps is a characteristic regularly seen on Indian Wars era cavalry equipment as the soldiers were justifiably concerned that such straps and loops could become fouled with their other equipment while mounted, and result in a serious injury.    

Soldiers’ footwear is generally not something that survived his period of service, or his post-military life, in great numbers – in most cases, these boots were simply too utilitarian to be saved.  Comparatively little US Army 19th Century footwear survives today and even fewer examples of mounted soldier’s boots in any condition are available for purchase by the private collector.  Obviously worn by a cavalry trooper, these 1876 Contract Mounted Soldier’s Boots present as a prime example of the footwear that bore the Frontier Army across the American West on any of the famous campaigns during the height of the Indian Wars.  That this pair of boots survives today in the condition they do is nothing short of remarkable.  Capturing the character of the frontier soldier who wore them, this pair of boots will be a historic addition to your Indian War Cavalry display.  SOLD

 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

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