Photo No. 26: The most common type of button used on the U.S. made leather jerkin was a plain black composite button (center). Plain brown composite buttons were also used, but with less frequently (right). A domed russet leather covered button typically signified that the leather jerkin was of British manufacture (left). All Great War British made leather jerkins also featured buttonholes that were reinforced with leather on the inside, hence the stitching around the British jerkin’s buttonhole.
A.E.F. Jerkins 1917 to 1919
Posted 05 January 2016 - 08:01 PM
Photo No. 27: All three of these leather jerkins appear to have buttons that have been riveted in place, like the tack buttons used on U.S. shelter halves and slickers (raincoats). The plaid lining on the center jerkin and the domed buttons on the left hand jerkin indicate that they may be of British manufacture. However the overall shape and cut of the two jerkins in question appear to be American. When compared side by side, the shoulder area of a British made jerkin has a much more pronounced flair which completely covers the upper shoulder.
Left hand photo courtesy of the Chuck Thomas collection
Center & right photos courtesy of the John Adam-Graf collection
Posted 05 January 2016 - 08:02 PM
Photo No. 28: The only official markings on a U.S. made leather jerkin were comprised of a linen size tag and a contract label. The size tag was typically sewn on the inside of the jerkin’s neck and the contract label was located on the lining, inside of the jerkin’s lower left front corner. Although not common, soldier’s names and individual unit markings are also sometimes written or stenciled on the interior lining of the jerkin.
This selection of various contract labels, some of which are dated as early as March 21, 1918, are displayed on either side of another Doughboy wearing a leather jerkin.
The U.S. made leather jerkins were manufactured in six numbered sizes as follows:
- No. 1 – 36 inch chest
- No. 2 – 38 inch chest
- No. 3 – 40 inch chest
- No. 4 – 42 inch chest
- No. 5 – 44 inch chest
- No. 6 – 46 inch chest
Center photo courtesy of the John Adam-Graf collection
Posted 05 January 2016 - 08:04 PM
The AEF Salvage Service
Under command of the Quartermaster Corps, the AEF Salvage Service was officially established in the fall of 1917. It did however, not become fully operational until April of 1918. According to America’s Munitions, the duties of the AEF Salvage Service, clothing division were comprised of:
Generally speaking, in cleaning, laundering, repairing, renovating, and otherwise looking after the uniform and equipment of the American soldier … During the six months beginning April 1918, the service salvaged repaired nearly 9,250,000 articles of clothing and equipment … After repair, it was estimated that their value was in the neighborhood of $29,000,000. The total cost of repair was little more than $2,500,000.
America’s Munitions, Benedict Crowell, 1919, page 192, 193
Under the direction of the Chief Quartermaster AEF, salvage troops were broken down into five classes: Salvage Headquarters Detachments, Depot Battalions, Field Salvage Battalions, Laundry Units, and Clothing and Bathing Units.
In addition, each field army had a salvage officer and each division of troops also had a salvage officer in command of a salvage squad. The troops that made up the AEF salvage squads and battalions were typically men who were either physically unfit or uneducated to the point that they were deemed unsuitable for combat, and by immigrant soldiers of alien birth who lacked sufficient knowledge of the English language.
Division salvage squads collected, sorted and transported all of the materials salvaged from both battlefields and AEF ‘salvage piles’ to railhead salvage dumps where it was then sent to the appropriate salvage workshop.
AEF clothing was repaired at Salvage Service clothing workshops and in the homes of some 880 French seamstresses or ‘home workers’ scattered throughout a number of small French towns and villages. Each town had a village forewoman who kept count, and distributed and collected both the damaged and repaired clothing.
AEF Salvage Jerkin
Worn from approximately April of 1918 until the Armistice
Over the years I have encountered a handful of what I can only describe as “Salvage Jerkins”. Each of which was nearly identical in construction, appearance and materials. Every example was also devoid of stamps, markings, tags and labels.
Photo No. 29: At left, worn over the officer’s service coat, is the so called Salvage Jerkin. This Salvage Jerkin is a fine example of the AEF Salvage Service’s ability at effectively recycling military clothing that had been damaged either through accident or as a result of combat.
The jerkin’s brown shade of wool and its smooth texture suggest that it was previously a 1911 Woolen Service Coat, an example of which is shown on the left for comparison.
The service coat, likely with damaged sleeves, was discarded on the salvage pile of an unknown AEF organization. Upon arrival at a Salvage Service, clothing workshop, after first being disinfected and laundered, it was either sent to the home of a French home workers for repair or reworked by a civilian employee at the clothing workshop.
The coat’s interior lining, sleeves, collar, shoulder straps, breast patch pockets, all four pocket flaps, and all of the garment’s bronze regulation eagle buttons were carefully removed.
After the unnecessary parts had been stripped from the coat, the sleeve openings were enlarged and the raw edges around the neck and sleeve openings were neatly hemmed. Then five black composite buttons were sewn in place to secure the jerkin’s front.
After completion, the salvage jerkin would be bundled by size with similar garments and sent to the nearest supply dump for reissue.
If any forum members own or have additional information on these unusual salvage (?) jerkins please post anything you may have or know about them to this thread or contact me via a personal message.
Posted 05 January 2016 - 08:06 PM
U.S. Wool Jerkin
Specification number and adoption date unknown
Worn either very late in the war or possibly never issued
As the supply of leather began to dwindle in 1918, the Quartermaster Corps was forced to substitute other materials, such as cotton and wool for leather, whose available was limited due to the urgent demand for more hobnailed shoes. Some of the emergency measures included making rifle slings from cotton webbing and fabricating jerkins entirely from wool.
Aside from having seen numerous physical examples of this particular garment, I have been unable to find any mention of it in either wartime or post war Quartermaster or government publications. Nor have I seen this style of jerkin being worn in any period photographs.
The only conclusion I can come to, is that like so many other articles of late war equipment and clothing made for the AEF late in 1918, the wool jerkin was either never issued or it was only issued in very limited quantities.
Once again, if any forum member has any additional information or images depicting this garment please post them to this thread or contact me via the forum’s personal message system.
Photo No. 30: Front and back views show that the wool jerkin’s body was composed entirely of olive drab woolen fabric that was edged with olive drab cotton tape, and that its front was now secured by five brown, rather than four black or brown composite buttons.
Photos courtesy of Advance Guard Militaria.com
Posted 05 January 2016 - 08:07 PM
Photo No. 31: Brown composite buttons (left) were generally the most common buttons used on the wool jerkin. I have however, seen several examples made with the type of black composite buttons used on the leather jerkin. Like its leather counterpart, regulation bronze eagle buttons (center) were occasionally substituted by individual soldiers. The woolen jerkin was unlined, except for the area immediately behind the button holes, which was reinforced with a layer of olive drab cotton material (right). Marking wise, wool jerkins had a linen size tag, stamped with only the size in the neck, and despite having never seen one; it presumably also had a contract label sewn on the inside. Logic dictates that the woolen jerkin was likely made in the same six sizes as that of the leather jerkin.
Left & right photos courtesy of Advance Guard Militaria.com
Center photo courtesy of the Trenchrat collection
Posted 05 January 2016 - 08:08 PM
Short Leather Jerkins & Wool Vests
Worn throughout the war by Doughboys on an individual basis
During the war, commercially made olive drab woolen and leather vests, or ‘waistcoats’, some lined with fleece or fur, were marketed by private firms. The non-regulation garments were designed to provide additional warmth when worn either over the flannel shirt or under the service coat, or both.
The vests frequently turn up in the catalogs that were printed by military outfitters during 1917 and 1918. They are however, rarely seen being worn by American Doughboys in period photographs, and seldom show up in Doughboy groupings.
Photo No. 32: These images, all of which were borrowed from the John Wanamaker’s 1917 Christmas clothing catalog show from left to right, a “Leather Jerkin lined with flannelette”, a “Vest of very fine khaki colored wool”, and a “Vest of khaki colored wool lined with fur”. The private purchase military garments were priced respectively at $15.00, $9.00 and $27.50.
Posted 05 January 2016 - 08:12 PM
Photo No. 33: These photos depict, from left to right, Doughboys from the Motor Transport Corps, 39th Infantry Division, and Evacuation Hospital No. 6 wearing short, non-regulation jerkins and vests.
Right hand photo courtesy of the Chuck Thomas collection
Center photo courtesy of the John Adam-Graf collection
Posted 05 January 2016 - 08:13 PM
PS, while compiling the images for this post, I realized that I had not come across one photograph of a U.S. Marine wearing a jerkin of any type. Does anyone out there have a photo of a WW I Marine wearing a jerkin? If so, it would be great if you would please post it.
Ahhh, only thirty something posted images and just two words over 6,000 …how nice it was to have created such a short post – thanks for looking.
World War I Nerd
Posted 05 January 2016 - 09:24 PM
In post #19 that odd pouch you referred to in the left photo is a M1917 machinegun clinometer case.
Posted 05 January 2016 - 09:33 PM
Thanks robinb, your ID of the leather pouch is much appreciated.
It occurred to me that the leather pouch in question might have had something to do with either the MG or an artillery piece. However, I had no reference material with which to compare that particular pouch with ... hence the non-committal wording to my caption!
Posted 06 January 2016 - 05:28 AM
Brian: several notes....1. I have never seen a standard US made jerkin with blue kersey lining. 2. I have seen standard US jerkins with grey/red plaid woolen lining. RE: USMC use I have a vague memory of an image of MAJ Holland Smith USMC wearing one - but I'm old and may be mistaken. Good post, I do not have specs for the jerkin. Still owe you scans of my slicker and poncho specs. will try to get those out tomorrow. Best as always Steve McG
Posted 06 January 2016 - 08:09 AM
Steve, thanks for adding your notes/comments. U.S. jerkins with gray/red plaid ... really? That's pretty cool.
I'd sure like to know more about the origin of that particular jerkin and what the Quartermaster Corps policy was in regard to using plaid and other patterns of wool lining in lieu of olive drab for the U.S. made jerkins.
Attached is an un-cropped shot of the blue wool jerkin lining that was described as being Spanish American War era blue kersey wool. I've not seen anything official in regard to old overcoats and blankets being used in that capacity, but it certainly wouldn't surprise me.
A while back I came across the following written by Heywood Broun, a war correspondent covering the AEF. As he disembarked in France, he observed African-American stevedore troops wearing obsolete post Civil War overcoats. I suspect the coats that he saw were leftover from the Spanish American war, not the Civil or Indian Wars ...
The French were also interested in a company of American negroes specially recruited for stevedore service. The negroes had been outfitted with old cavalry overcoats of a period shortly after the Civil War. They were blue coats with gold buttons and the lining was a tasteful but hardly somber shade or crimson.
From: "With General Pershing and the American Forces", Heywood Broun, 1918, page 19
The above is the second time I've come across a first hand account of an American who, while disembarking in France, observed stevedores wearing obsolete Spanish American War service coats or overcoats. I have the other account written down somewhere, but was unable to locate it for this post.
Posted 06 January 2016 - 09:33 AM
I found this article about manufacturing Jerkins in the Boston Herald, July 14, 1918, and an ad for jerkins in the same paper on December 13, 1918:
Posted 06 January 2016 - 05:22 PM
Championhilz, thanks for the addition of the ad and article.
Period newspapers often turn out to be an excellent source for information in regard to the development of wartime clothing destined for the AEF, especially when local factories were awarded large military contracts.
I'm glad you found what you did, my Google searches on the jerkin turned up only the most basic of information.
Posted 12 February 2016 - 12:58 PM
Jagjetta sent me these images from a previous Advance Guard Militaria catalog of a commercially made woolen vest that was once worn by a member of the Motor Transport Corps, AEF.
Posted 12 February 2016 - 01:03 PM
John also sent me this image from his collection of an African American Doughboy wearing what must be the regulation issued Wool Jerkin.
I believe that the buttons are not visible because the jerkin is unbuttoned and the left hand side (with buttonholes) is overlapping the right hand side and thus concealing the buttons.
Posted 15 March 2016 - 11:00 AM
Very good subject !
Here my two Jerkins (Light and dark brown) found in France.
Posted 16 March 2016 - 12:24 AM
Aurel, thanks for looking at, and adding images of your jerkins to this post. Are there any tags or markings present anywhere on your jerkins?
Thanks to forum member JProstak, I've recently learned that the Specification No. for the Leather Jerkin was 1391. However its adoption date is still unknown.
Another image of a leather jerkin lined with plaid woolen material has come to my attention. It also features bronze eagle buttons attached with split rings. Its plaid lining is compared to the regulation olive drab wool lining on the leather jerkin to the left.
Photos courtesy of the John Adam-Graf collection
Posted 16 March 2016 - 04:36 AM
Brian; I figured you would catch that image of the plaid lined jerkin....looks very much like the one I saw years ago mostly grey with some muted dark red, like the old LL Bean "Ballard Cloth" loggers trousers. Steve McG
Posted 15 April 2016 - 11:30 PM
While researching WW I era Mackinaws, it dawned on me that the answer as to how a plaid woolen material came to be used as the lining for U.S. made leather jerkins had been within the text of an Army report that was quoted in post number 19 on page one of this thread.
The relevant passage stated that the Army jerkin was "lined with woven-woolen Melton kersey or Mackinaw cloth."
Prior to and after the war, the Mackinaw had been, and remained, a common civilian outdoor garment. In most cases it was made from a plaid woolen cloth. Hence the term "Mackinaw cloth" was actually a reference to a commercially made plaid woolen cloth with muted colors, while the term "woven-woolen Melton kersey" was a reference to the more common olive drab lining.
Here the leather jerkin at center, presumably lined with the so called Mackinaw cloth is flanked by 1918 and 1922 dated advertisements both depicting civilian Mackinaws made from plaid "Mackinaw cloth".
Edited by world war I nerd, 15 April 2016 - 11:34 PM.
Posted 24 September 2017 - 03:36 PM
I am going to throw a hand grenade into this discussion...
I have in my collection, a Jerkin made from Black Oil Cloth or painted canvas. The lining is a rough, mixed wool, almost shoddy, that may or may not have been over-dyed OD. It has a QM tag present, made by the Borman Sheep Lined Coat Co., with a contract date of Sept. 26, 1917.
I got this with a lot of items belonging to a man who served in the 35th Division Trains. To my knowledge, no one has ever seen or heard of one of these made from oil cloth. My thought is that this may have been the earliest version of the US jerkin, or an early attempt to make one from less costly material in an effort to conserve leather. These would not have held up as well as the leather version, and I expect that most were worn out quickly overseas.
Posted 25 September 2017 - 07:31 AM
That's a very interesting jerkin you have there yd102. I've certainly never encountered one like that before.
I can't quite make out the contract date ... when you're up close and personal is the contract date legible?
My first thought was that it was French made, as the French used a lot of oilcloth, however, the presence of a contract tag suggests otherwise.
Barring any additional information, my guess would be that it is either a very early or a very late production jerkin, or else it's some sort of a stop-gap/experimental version that was made due to a shortage of leather???
Regardless, it's a great piece.
Posted 25 September 2017 - 07:35 AM
Another possibility is that a contract for oilskin coats (which was a garment made & shipped to the AEF) could have been amended/altered/ diverted to the making of jerkins instead?
1 user(s) are reading this topic
0 members, 1 guests, 0 anonymous users