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UNITED STATES MARINE CORPS MODEL 1905 CANTEEN WITH THE ORIGINAL 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 weakened.   

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 exotic stations such as Haiti, Nicaragua, and the Philippines.

This is a very rare United States Marine Corps Canteen and it would be a notable addition to a display or collection of early 20TH Century USMC equipment, and the excellent condition of this specimen is such that it would be difficult to upgrade.  (1025)  $750 



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