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PATTERN 1899 INFANTRY CORPORAL’S TROPICAL UNIFORM – FULL SET OF BLOUSE AND TROUSERS COMPLETE WITH ALL THE PROPER INSIGNIA – SCARCE EARLY KHAKI UNIFORM IN VERY GOOD CONDITION:  At the start of the Spanish American War, khaki colored, cotton uniforms were adopted with the issue of General Order No. 39 on May 9, 1898 and were to be trimmed with the color of the branch of service (G.O. 51, May 23, 1898) - dark blue for the staff departments and general staff, yellow for cavalry, red for artillery, and sky blue for infantry.  The blouses for the enlisted men had the trim colors on the collar, shoulder straps, breast pocket flaps and cuffs, and the officer blouses were trimmed in the branch color on the collar, shoulder straps and cuffs.   

While the colored trim provided an attractive and distinctive uniform for each branch, the concept proved to be “one of those good ideas that didn’t work” for more than one reason.  

The immediate problem became apparent when the colored trim panels - especially the blue for infantry and red for artillery – suffered from the severe tropical sun and faded to some fairly unattractive anemic hues.   

Additionally, as the uniforms were subjected to the rigors of the field, the army quickly discovered that the wear out period for cavalry and infantry uniforms was considerably shorter than it was for artillery and staff department uniforms.  This resulted in a serious shortage of replacement uniforms for the mounted and foot troops, while an overabundance of artillery and staff uniforms sat unissued in storage.  Due to the way in which this pattern of coat was trimmed, changing the color of the facings in order to meet the need for uniforms was not practical.   

As a result, less than two months later, on July 15, 1898, the Secretary of War issued a circular directing that while the design of the uniform blouse would remain the same, the colored facings would be eliminated and replaced with colored detachable shoulder tabs that could be issued with the later pattern all khaki coats in the appropriate color for the soldier’s particular branch of service.  

The next phase in the evolution of a tropical weight cotton khaki uniform occurred the following year with the introduction of the uniform offered here, the Pattern 1899 Tropical Uniform.  The standing collar of the Pattern 1898 Blouse was replaced with a more comfortable and less restrictive rolled collar.  The waist belt was eliminated, and the pleat on the rear panel was replaced with a single center seam.  The lower pockets were moved from the hips to the front, more or less in line with the breast pockets.  The colored shoulder tabs continued in use, designed to be removable and easily replaced by the soldier and not requiring the talents of a tailor.  Like the Second Pattern 1898 Blouse, the Pattern 1899 Blouse could be issued to a soldier in any branch of the service, and this amounted to a substantial cost savings.  The Pattern 1899 Blouse continued the use of the US Army General Service Buttons used on the earlier khaki uniforms and wool blouses.   

This uniform shows the obvious signs of having been issued and worn in the field, but it faired well in service and the corporal took good care of his clothing both while in service and in storage after his enlistment.  The khaki fabric of the blouse and the trousers is in overall very good condition, with no deterioration, no open seams, no fraying to the lower edge of the blouse, the edge of the cuffs or collar, and no wear to the waist or cuffs of the trousers.   

The blouse shows the appropriate stains and soiling that is expected with these uniforms which saw wear in the field, but nothing which dramatically detracts from the uniform.  There is some light surface soiling on the inside of the arms, the breast pocket fronts, and the front of the torso, but none of the sweat stains that are commonly found on these tropical uniforms.  The rear of the blouse is overall very clean.  There is a spot on the center front that can be seen in the photographs below.  The shoulder tabs are in place and full form, showing no significant wear and still firmly held in place by the integral wire hooks. There is a short area of wear to the bottom edge of the blouse, situated over the right buttock when worn resulting in some fraying to the edge and the loss of a ½” square piece of fabric – likely caused by a piece of the soldier’s equipment rubbing against the edge when he was on the march. 

The matching corporal’s chevrons are intact on the sleeves and are in full form, showing only minor wear to the dark blue piping which delineates the two bars of the chevron.  The chevrons and the shoulder tabs all appear to be original to this blouse.  All of the matching original General Service buttons are present on the front closure, the shoulder straps, and the pocket flaps, and the hook and eye closure at the bottom of the blouse opening is intact.    

The trousers match the blouse in color and are in likewise very good condition.  All of the fly, suspender, and pocket flap buttons are present and matching, and all appear to be original to the period of wear of the trousers.  All of the seams are intact. The waist adjustment belt at the back of the trousers is present, full length and the original claw buckle is present and functional.  All of the waist band liner and all of the interior pocket material is present and intact with no damage.  There is a ¼” wear point on right rear trouser pocket as would be left by the handle of a folding pocket knife.  There are a few minor soiling marks to the exterior of the trousers as is expected from any uniform worn in the field, but nothing dramatic.   

Introduced as our army was deployed to far away lands and subjected to the sweltering heat of the Caribbean and Pacific, this Pattern 1899 Tropical Uniform Set of blouse and trousers shows some evidence of the corporal’s service, but nonetheless, it has survived in very nice condition and given the scarcity of these tropical uniforms, it will be a particularly nice addition to your Spanish American War display.  SOLD

NOTE:  To say that photographing uniforms is a challenge is an understatement.  In normal lighting, the cloth absorbs the light and none of the finer features or condition details can be seen clearly.  In order to highlight the features and provide you with an accurate view of the material, I have to lighten the contrast of the photograph which in turn causes even colored cloth to appear faded or discolored when such is not the case.  This uniform has an even khaki color throughout as is seen in the close up photographs.    



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