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ca. 1880 US ARMY SADDLERS REPAIR & HOLSTER MODIFICATION KIT: This original US Army Harness/Saddler’s Repair Kit is one of the small quantity of these kits recovered from the basement of one of the surviving buildings of Ft. McIntosh,  situated on the banks of the Rio Grande River in Laredo, Texas.  Ft. McIntosh was established in 1849 and continued as an active post until it was closed in 1946, at which time the installation was turned over to the City of Laredo.  The old buildings now serve as the home of the Laredo Junior College and the Laredo State University.  When these kits were found, they were in a wooden crate marked SAQD indicating they were issued from the San Antonio, Texas Quartermaster Depot at Ft. Sam Houston.  

These kits were originally issued during the late Indian War period to company saddlers to affect the belt loop modification of the Model 1881 Holsters in order that the belt loops would accommodate the wider Mills Woven cartridge belts.  These kits continued to be carried in inventory, and were pictured in the Quartermaster Corps Field Equipment Catalogs through at least 1917 (see the photograph below from the catalog listing), where they were listed as “Harness Mender Kits” (the army’s nomenclature) and were issued for a variety of uses until the stocks were expended.     

Years ago I was fortunate enough to get in on the “ground floor” of the original discovery of these kits and was able to purchase a small quantity of them.  In one of the kits was the original holster modification instruction sheet and I kept a copy of the sheet in my files.  A facsimile of the original sheet is included with this kit, reproduced in the original size.  Although the instruction sheet is dated 1896, and refers to an issue of new, larger belt loops with which to execute the holster modifications, these kits may well predate the instruction sheet as it is known surplus Civil War and early Indian Wars holsters were being issued concurrently with the earlier patterns of the Model 1876-79 Prairie belts and the Mills woven looped cartridge belts.  The belt loops on those early holsters – designed to be worn on the two inch wide leather sabre belts - would have required modification as well in order to accommodate the larger cartridge belts.   

This kit is in excellent condition.  The tin box, which measures 5.5” long, 3” wide, and  2.25” high, contains the complete contents as shown in the Quartermaster Catalog, including:  the needles, awl, awl handle and wrench, rivet punch, rivet set, thread, a cube of beeswax, and a carton of rivets and burrs.  The rivets in these sets are the well known copper rivets with five pointed star on face of the rivet.   

Originally found in limited quantity, even when fresh on the market these kits were never common, and once sold into collections they have all but disappeared.  Now we have to rely on finding one now and again as they slowly emerge from old collections.  Due to their rarity I have no expectation of finding additional specimens in this complete condition. Don’t let this one get past you. (0223)  $250

 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

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