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MODEL 1883 US ARMY MESS HALL STOOL:  As pictured in this National Archive photo taken at a Ft. Sill Mess Hall in the 1880’s, this is a standard unit and army post issue Model 1883 Mess Hall Stool.  Sold as surplus out of Ft. Sam Houston, San Antonio, Texas years ago and having survived in private homes, farms and ranches in the area by continuing service as milking stools and kitchen step stools, these relics of the Indian War Army Mess Halls now surface on occasion.   

I have handled over 100 of these stools so far and they are all a little different.  Most of these stools were not marked, or the markings did not survive the passage of time and use.  Of those that are marked, I have seen a wide variation of paint stenciled "US", a "US" stamped with a metal stamping tool, and specimens stamped with regimental markings and no "US".  The little fire plug shaped block that serves as the intersection of the iron rods are also seen in a variety of styles, but all the same basic domed shape, and were originally intended not only as a structural support, but also a place for the soldier to rest his forage cap while at the table. 

All the stools are basically the same dimensions, but I have seen specimens made entirely of oak, some out of poplar, some out of walnut, one I think was mahogany, and any number of them that were a mixture of oak, and/or walnut, and/or poplar. 

I own two that I use in my display room.  One can be traced to Ft. McKavitt here in Texas and it is stamped "US" dating from the 1880's and the other is stenciled "CMTC" for the Civilian Military Training Camp, indicating it was used in the 1930's, so apparently these stools stayed in service for some time. 

Due to the variations I have seen, I believe these were supplied by a number of civilian contractors and were probably shipped in pieces to the posts in the West, to be assembled by the troops that received them.  The army commonly provided the barracks and post furniture to the Indian War army in kit form and it stands to reason as it made shipping much easier.  As a result, I think this also accounts for the mixture of woods in some of the specimens. 

I used to find these stools on a fairly regular basis, but in the last few years they have all but disappeared from the market.  And too, I am competing for those that do show up with the "foo-foo" antique dealers who buy them to put a lace doily skirt on them and all sorts of other indignities.  I won't buy one that is not structurally sound, but they all show evidence of years of hard use in the classrooms, barns, kitchens and workshops from which they are rescued. 

Based on certain consistencies I’ve seen in these stools through the years, I have come to the fairly certain conclusion that during the Indian War period the army either left the stools unfinished or only applied a natural rubbed oil finish.  Probably due to the wear through the years, the army began painting to stools after 1900.  I suspect individual units would paint them as a means of branding them, so they wouldn't "walk off" to another company area or disappear into barracks.  As the stools were also used in hospitals, work shops, and offices - anywhere seating was required – I imagine inventory control was a challenge. 

I have had the stools in all the classic branch of service colors – yellow for cavalry, red for artillery, various shades of blue for infantry, white probably for hospital use, and so on.  The various colors were so consistent in hue – all the yellows the same or similar, the reds the same, etc. – that it appeared the stools were painted all one color within the company or regiment.  That sort of standardization certainly tracks with the military’s sense of uniformity. 

Adding to the army’s efforts, once the stools moved into the civilian world where painting furniture was in vogue, the combined results produced some of the most hideous paint schemes imaginable.  I used to strip the paint and refinish the stools in the natural wood grain, with a hand rubbed wax finish prior to offering them for sale.  Not only do I no longer have the time to do so, but I have found many collectors want the original army applied paint finish intact, so you will receive the stool with the finish or paint as I find it.  The stool pictured below is an example of what these stools look like when they are refinished.  They are a very attractive, practical, and convenient addition to your display room. 

I currently have these stools in stock, each described below with accompanying photographs. 

 

NO. 1  MODEL 1883 US ARMY MESS HALL STOOL:  This is an excellent specimen found recently in an old collection of US militaria.  Presenting as nice as any piece of antique furniture, if I did not already have the stools in my personal collection which I use in my display room, this stool would never see the light of day.  This is a very solid specimen with no severe dents, chips or gouges, all the joints are tight, and all the components are intact.  In overall excellent condition overall, t would be almost impossible to upgrade this stool.  SOLD See Next Stool

 

NO. 2  MODEL 1883 US ARMY MESS HALL STOOL:  This stool is in "as found" condition and it still retains its original red paint.  This stool is solid, all the parts are present, and the seat has the characteristic grain separation (more common than not as they were made from a single piece of 12" wide planking).  The seat has been reinforced with corrugated metal joint reinforcing strips.  These strips are only visible from the under side and do not detract from the appearance or stability of the stool.  Overall, this is a very solid specimen with no weak points, it would display very well, and it is in far better condition than most I have seen in the last few years. (0205) $185

 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

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