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PATTERN 1876 CONTRACT US ARMY MOUNTED TROOPER’S BOOTS – A VERY ATTRACTIVE PAIR IN EXCELLENT CONDITION WITH ORIGINAL MODEL 1872 SPURS AND SPUR STRAPS:  This pair of US Army Pattern 1876 Boots, worn by the mounted enlisted men during the height of the Indian War period, was found with the pair of Model 1872 Spurs and Model 1859 Spur Straps in place.   

This set presents as having been together forever, as if the trooper just kicked them off at the end of the day.  And, I suspect that is exactly what happened.  He finished his final enlistment, and leaving his spurs in place, packed the boots away.   

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.   

Each boot of this pair shows wear patterns around the heel and across the instep left by the regular wear of spurs and spur straps, confirming that these boots were worn by a mounted soldier.  The front upper of each boot has the inverted 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 the soles and heels.  These boots had new half soles and heels applied during the period of use, and the nails used to attach the new leather were left “proud” of the surface of the leather and arranged in a zig-zag pattern.  I have seen another pair of Indian War era boots that were soled in this manner which were definitely worn by a soldier in the northern plains, and it reasons that  the exposed nail heads provided a more secure purchase on ice and snow encountered during the long winters.  The uppers are fully 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.  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, and both boots are complete with all components to include both sets of boot pulls.    

The presence of the Model 1872 Spurs mounted on these boots with the Model 1859 Spur Straps is a considerable added value.  Matched pairs of Model 1872 Spurs are anything but common, and Model 1859 Spur Straps are rare in their own right.  To find them in place, obviously original to the period of use of the boots, is a coup of particular note for the Indian Wars collector. 

The Model 1872 Spurs are the correct model for wear with the Pattern 1876 Boot, being the spur issued from 1872 until the adoption of the Model 1885 Spurs.  The Model 1872 Spur was in fact the Model 1859 Spur, except that the rough cast surface of the Civil War production spurs was polished smooth.  When the decision was made to polish out the existing 1859 spurs in inventory during the 1872 Cavalry Equipment Board, the polished spur received the new designation.  The use of the Model 1859 Spur Straps is also correct, again a holdover from the War and something that continued in use until the Model 1885 Spur Straps were introduced with the new spurs.   

Both spurs are full form with functional, free spinning rowels.  Both spur straps show the expected evidence of use, however both are full length without having been shortened as is sometimes seen, are supple with no weak points, and both of the strap tips have faint, but discernable inspector’s stamps.  Overall, a very nice pair in their own right. 

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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