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
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
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.