UNITED STATES MARINE CORPS MODEL 1905 CANTEEN WITH
ROCK ISLAND ARSENAL RUSSET
LEATHER STRAP – EXCELLENT
SPECIMEN OF A VERY RARE USMC CANTEEN:
Manufactured at the Rock Island Arsenal, this is the
same canteen issued to the early 20TH Century
US Army soldiers as the Model 1905 Canteen, however this
canteen is one of the very rare specimens issued to the
United States Marines.
Apparently produced, and so marked, in very limited
numbers, this is only the third “USMC” marked ovoid
canteen that I have seen in almost 30 years, and the
first Model 1905 USMC Canteen. I have been told a small
quantity of canteens marked the same way were discovered
in a southern California costume shop a number of years
ago and they quickly disappeared into collections.
The combination of the small size of the
early 20TH Century
Marine Corps and the conditions in
which they served at sea and in far flung garrisons and
battlefields around the world, contributed to a very low
survival rate of their “USMC” marked equipment,
including these canteens.
The “USMC” brightly stenciled on the front of the cover
is very legible. There is also a faint arsenal stencil
at the bottom center of the front cover, partially
legible as “R.I.A. 1905”, indicating the cover was
produced at the Rock Island Arsenal in 1905. The seams
are all intact and the cover is very solid with only
minor evidence of wear. There is a small split in the
cloth immediately below the S and M of the USMC stencil,
but it is stable and the cloth is not otherwise
The cover has an overall dark color which may be
explained by the tea leaves I found in the canteen (see
photograph below). When I acquired the canteen, when
shaken there was some loose material inside which turned
out to be a large quantity of tea leaves, some of which
I saved and will accompany the sale of the canteen.
While tea would have been available to a marine serving
almost anywhere in the world, the presence of the tea
leaves remaining in the canteen suggests that this
marine may well have been serving in the Far East,
perhaps China. I suspect the darkened color of the
cover is due to the tea regularly carried in the canteen
– stuff the leaves down the spout of the canteen, fill
it with water, and brew it as the marine marched along.
Could well be the flavor of the tea helped to disguise
the taint of contaminated water.
Both of the triangular hangers are intact and the body
of the canteen holds it ovoid shape on the front and the
rear surface has the distinctive round dimple correct
for the Model 1905 Canteen, with no dents from abuse or
other damage. The original cork stopper and brass chain
are present, with only minor loss of cork at the base of
the stopper – not visible when in place in the spout.
This canteen is suspended from the correct Model 1878
Canteen and Haversack Strap which was manufactured at
Rock Island Arsenal and so marked very legibly on the
sling, after the leather color change from black to
russet leather in 1902. Introduced with the Model 1878
Haversack and adopted for the canteen as well with the
adoption of the 1885 Equipment, these slings continued
in use through the early years of the 20TH
Century. The strap is in excellent condition - full
length with no weak points, complete with both brass
hooks and leather keepers, and the leather is supple
with a bright shiny surface and a nice russet color.
These russet slings were made in very limited numbers,
compared to the numbers of the black slings produced,
and are quite rare today.
These canteens were issued to the Marines through the
period made famous by the siege of the diplomatic
compound in China as depicted in classic film “55 Days
At Peking”, and in such