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VERY RARE EARLY US MILITARY SADDLE VALISE – ca. 1814-1815 – MANUFACTURED BY ROBERT DINGEE AND PERHAPS THE ONLY EXTANT EXAMPLE OF THIS FAMOUS MAKER’S EARLY VALISES – AN EXCELLENT VERY  ATTRACTIVE SPECIMEN APPROPRIATE FOR DISPLAY WITH ANY 19TH CENTURY AMERICAN MILITARY OFFICERS’ SADDLE:  Having defied the passage of time, the turbulent years of the mid-19TH century which consumed so much of the horse equipment through hard use, and the neglect and poor storage in the years that followed which eventually destroyed most of the few that remained, this extraordinary valise is the only known surviving specimen of those manufactured by Robert Dingee at his New York City shop at 65 Dey Street – so identified by the especially rare paper maker’s tag affixed to the interior flap. 

Robert Dingee Sr. was one of, if not the most, prominent suppliers of military insignia, accoutrements, and hats in the United States during the first half of the 19TH Century.  He not only secured contracts to supply these items from the U.S. Army and Marine Corps, he was also instrumental in developing various accoutrements from his own designs.   

Robert Dingee Sr. is recorded in the New York City Directories at several different locations; however he occupied the shop at 65 Dey Street for only a very short period – 1814-1815.  As the paper labels such as the one affixed to the interior of this valise were one of his primary means of advertising his merchandise and his business, it stands to reason that once Dingee moved to a new location, he would have a fresh label designed and printed with the current address.  That this label has survived provides a unique means of identifying the maker and, more importantly, date the valise to a specific period.      

Robert died in 1843 and his sons, Robert Jr. and Henry A. Dingee carried on the business through the Civil War.   

This valise has all the appearances of those associated with the antebellum era, and is certainly of the style carried by US military officers as early as the War of 1812 and through the mid-19TH Century across the border and along the Santa Fe Trail during the Mexican War period, and this enduring style would be very appropriate to complete a Civil War Officer’s Saddle – both Union and Confederate.  While not a regulation army pattern, this valise would have appealed to officers who, of course, were required to purchase their own horse equipment, and to those enlisted men who could afford to add to their issued equipment or brought this sort of equipment from home.   

This valise has survived in excellent condition - directly attributable to the maker - as this piece was as well made as any piece of expensive luggage and was likely the top of the line at the time it was made.  Evidence of the quality of this piece is the fairly complex tooled design decorating the main cover or flap of the valise, with a similar tooling decorating the end panels.    

Measuring 18 ˝ “long, 7” high, and 7 ˝” wide, the body and ends are formed of substantial weight russet leather that is still very supple.  The leather surfaces are still bright with a shiny finish, with minimal crazing and no flaking.  The valise is very solid with no rot or deterioration, all of the seams are intact, and the shape holds it form without any need for support.  The three closing straps are present as are the matching buckles for securing the flap cover.  The carrying handles anchored through the end panels are both present and intact.  The only significant evidence of wear is noticeable at a few spots along the edge binding of the flap, but this is very minimal.    

The blue and white “ticking” cloth pouch on the underside of the cover flap is fully intact with some minor wear at the end seams.  The body is lined with the same ticking, and the underside of the inner flap and inner surface of the end panels are lined with the original tapestry-like cloth.  The linings remain in very good condition, showing only minimal wear and no severe damage.   

Valises of this vintage simply did not survive in any appreciable numbers, certainly not with such a well known maker’s label intact, making this a particularly rare offering – quite possibly it is literally one of a kind.  In remarkable condition, this exceptionally nice valise would display quite nicely with any US military saddle collection, especially mounted on the cantle of a Ringgold or Grimsley Saddle, or any one of the many saddles used by Civil War Officers.  SOLD




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