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U.S. Army Ponchos, Slickers & Raincoats 1901 to 1919


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#1 world war I nerd

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Posted 31 May 2016 - 06:15 AM

U.S. Army Ponchos, Slickers & Raincoats

1901 to 1919

 

I always begin writing a post thinking this one will be easy. Like most of my previous posts, while researching I discover that the given topic is much more complicated that I originally thought. This post was no different. Although obvious gaps do exist in the information contained within this post, I’ve made it a complete as the available research permitted.

 

This post also would have been impossible to write without the assistance of very knowledgeable, and very helpful Forum members such as Dragoon, Jagjetta, Chuck Thomas, McCooper, and Jprostak, all of whom made major contributions in regard the this posts visual and textual content. They provided a great deal of the raw material. I was just the humble laborer who cobbled it all together.

 

As always, all Forum members are encouraged to add photos and information, correct errors or otherwise opine on the quality (both good and bad) of this posts content.

 

I’m also curious if the early histories and general backgrounds of the articles named in the topic’s title were thought to be worthy information for a collector to know, or not. I’d really appreciate hearing your personal opinion, by way of a personal message or post, on whether or not that type of information should be included in future posts.

 

Thanks for looking …World War I Nerd

 

Photo No. 01: Between 1901 and 1919, the Quartermaster Department and after 1912, the Quartermaster Corps, was tasked with designing a functional, serviceable and waterproof outer garment that could be worn by both mounted and foot troops. It was also tasked with developing an effective means to render those garments waterproof and make them comfortable to wear. The trial and era method employed led to the issue of a plethora of ponchos, slickers and raincoats, all of which had been rendered waterproof by a wide variety of different waterproofing compounds.

 

Those garments culminated in a waterproof cotton twill raincoat of British design that was known as a “Trenchcoat”. That ubiquitous raincoat favored by officers of the AEF is depicted in this illustration created by Joseph Christian, or “J.C.” Leyandecker, the very popular illustrator from the WW I era.

Attached Images

  • 01 Ponchos & Slickers.jpg


#2 world war I nerd

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Posted 31 May 2016 - 06:21 AM

A Brief History of the Poncho

 

Throughout history primitive peoples and ancient civilizations looked to Mother Nature for inspiration in regard to devising a garment that would protect them from precipitation. The result being ancient rain garments in the form of cloaks, capes and ponchos that were made from a variety of materials that were naturally water resistant, such as banana tree leaves, woven grass and animal skins.

 

As early as 1,900 BC, water resistant cloaks and ponchos were being woven from wool which was known to both insulate and shed water. In the 14th century, the Chinese developed a water resistant fabric that was strong, lightweight and flexible. It was made by permeating silk with vegetable oils. Today, Chinese oiled silk umbrellas are considered to be among the finest in the world. Long before the Europeans arrived in the “New World” in 1492, the native peoples of the Andes in South America had been coating woolen ponchos with raw latex drawn from rubber trees found in the rainforest. The application of rubber, thus transformed the primitive woolen poncho into an early form of rain poncho.

 

Strictly speaking, a poncho was, and still is, an outer garment whose purpose is to keep the body warm or dry. In its simplest form a poncho is comprised of a large, single sheet of fabric, either circular or rectangular, with a center opening through which the head passed. Its body, when draped over the shoulders, covered both the front and rear of the wearer. The name “poncho” comes from a Spanish mispronunciation of the Araucanian* word “pontho”, which literally meant “woolen fabric”.

 

*Araucanian is an area located on the western coast of Chile.

 

Photo No. 02: From left to right, a woolen Peruvian poncho that dates to approximately 400 BC; a 2nd Century BC sheepskin cape from Denmark and a Chinese woven grass rain poncho and raincoat circa 1350.

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  • 02 Traditional Ponchos.jpg


#3 world war I nerd

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Posted 31 May 2016 - 06:22 AM

Early Gum Rubber Clothing

During the 18th century foul weather clothing was typically made by applying a layer of natural India rubber that had been dissolved onto woolen cloth. Despite the fact that fabric coated with gum rubber was completely waterproof, early rubberized garments were far from perfect. Water leaked in through the puncture holes where the pieces had been sewn together. The natural oils found in woolen fabric would over time, cause the rubber coating to deteriorate. The uncured natural rubber smelled bad. It became sticky when hot, and stiff when cold. The rubber coated garments also didn’t breathe or allow moisture to evaporate. For all of the above reasons early “rubber coats” were uncomfortable to wear, especially during any type of strenuous activity.

 

In 1823, a young clerk and amateur chemist by the name of Charles Macintosh patented a process for bonding rubber between two pieces of woolen material. Like the rubberized cloth that preceded it, the new Mackintosh cloth was both wind and water proof. But unlike its predecessor, the three-layered Macintosh cloth was softer, more flexible, and much more fashionable. Layered rubberized cloth was manufactured in the Macintosh family’s textile mill and sold to clothing manufacturers. One year later in 1824, the first raincoat made from Macintosh cloth was sold. Despite being more comfortable to wear, Macintosh coats remained stiff, smelly and prone to melting in the heat.

 

Macintosh merged with the clothing company Thomas Hancock in 1830. Together, they produced their own ready to wear “Macintosh Coats”. During this time they began to use cotton fabric rather than wool. They also learned how to tape and glue seams so that they would not leak. And they developed a process that would allow the natural rubber to remain flexible and prevented it from melting or becoming stiff. This process was called vulcanization after Vulcan, the Roman god of fire.

 

It was Thomas Hancock who first secured a British patent for the vulcanization of rubber in 1844. That was three weeks before Charles Goodyear was awarded an American patent for the same thing. The discovery of the vulcanization process revolutionized the use of rubber.

 

Photo No. 03: At left is an early type of cloth raincoat made from waterproofed, not rubberized fabric. The coat was made by a prominent English clothing manufacturer and worn in 1854 during the British Crimean War. The right hand drawing by the German artist Adolf Menzel, depicts the waterproof rubber coat worn by German General Helmuth von Moltke in 1871.

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  • 03 Early Military Raincoats.jpg


#4 world war I nerd

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Posted 31 May 2016 - 06:24 AM

19th Century

U.S. Army Black Gum Rubber Ponchos & Slickers

 

During the late 18th and early 19th centuries the U.S. Army saw no need to issue its troops any sort of waterproof garment that would protect them from the elements. In fact, it wasn’t until the 1850’s that irregular U.S. military forces operating on the Western Plains of the United States first began to wear a rubberized poncho. The early military ponchos were made from cotton fabrics that had been rendered waterproof by an application of a latex rubber compound. That rubber coated material was known as “Gutta percha” after the Malaysian rubber tree of the same name. At that time however, any garment that was coated with a black rubber compound was generically referred to as being made from “Gum Rubber”.

 

During the American Civil War a rubberized groundsheet that had been officially labeled a “Waterproof Blanket”, but was referred to by the troops as a “Gum Blanket”, was first prescribed for use by mounted troops. However, before long, the Waterproof Blanket was found to be impractical for mounted troops, it was authorized instead to be issued to foot troops. To replace the ungainly Gum Blanket for mounted troops, a new rubberized poncho made from either Gutta percha or tightly woven cotton sheeting coated with India rubber was adopted. Shortly thereafter, the mounted trooper’s new rubberized poncho was appropriated and worn by foot soldiers. By the war’s end, the rubberized or “gum” poncho was being worn by mounted and foot soldiers that fought for both the North and the South.

 

From the beginning of the American Civil War up until several years after the end of the Spanish American War, the U.S. Army did not adopt, nor did it issue, any type of regulation raincoat or slicker. Those types of front fastening, long sleeved, wet weather garments were nevertheless worn during that period of American history. They were however, the exception rather than the rule. The oiled and rubberized raincoats and slickers so worn would have been commercially made and privately purchased on an individual basis by the officers and enlisted men who could afford to do so.

 

Photo No. 04: At left is the commercially made waterproof coat that was worn by Confederate General Thomas Jonathan “Stonewall” Jackson when he was mistakenly shot in the left arm in 1863, by a Confederate picket during the battle of Chancellorsville. At center is a reproduction of a regulation Union Army gum rubber poncho. By the beginning of the Civil War a host of commercially made rubber and oilskin rain garments in the form of single and double breasted raincoats, a short waterproof cape called a Talma, as well as ponchos were available for soldiers to purchase. In appearance, they were much like the gum rubber raincoat worn by the civilian photographed at a Union Army camp on the far right.

 

Left hand photo courtesy of the Virginia Military Institute

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  • 04 Civil War Slickers & Poncho.jpg


#5 world war I nerd

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Posted 31 May 2016 - 06:25 AM

In 1865, when the Civil War came to an end, so too, did the need for a regulation rain poncho in the U. S. Army. For the next quarter of a century, the rain poncho as an article of equipment in the U.S. Army ceased to exist. It wasn’t until 1889 that the Army and the Quartermaster Department were once again compelled to adopt a rain poncho for America’s armed forces, who were at that time scattered across the American plains and southwest serving in what would collectively be known as the Indian Wars.

 

Photo No. 05: At left is an infantryman wearing a vulcanized rubber poncho circa 1866. The Spanish American war cavalry trooper in Cuba (center) is wearing a long, non-regulation “slicker” that appears to be made from oilcloth. On the right, another soldier from the Spanish American War is wearing what looks to be a non-regulation light colored poncho.

 

Left hand photo courtesy of the U.S. Army Quartermaster Museum

Center photo courtesy of the Dragoon collection

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  • 05 Indian & Span-Am Slicker & Poncho.jpg


#6 world war I nerd

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Posted 31 May 2016 - 06:27 AM

From the late 1800s through to the dawn of the new century, the rubber rain ponchos issued by the U.S. Army were plagued with problems. The rubberized fabric from which they were made did not breathe; they often leaked; they frequently became sticky in hot weather and stiff when it was cold. They also had a tendency to stink. As noted by the many specification changes made to the enlisted men’s poncho during the last decade of the 19th century, the Quartermaster Department endeavored to perfect both the poncho’s design and the formula of the rubber compound that was used to render the garments waterproof.

 

  • 1889 Rubber Blanket, Specification No. 222, adopted by the Army on January 5, 1889: It was 45 by 72 inches … It was made from rubberized cotton sheeting … It had no center opening or flap … It had eighteen, ¼ inch diameter brass grommets, each reinforced with a 1 ½ inch square of matching material placed around its edges, four grommets along the top and bottom edges and six grommets on one side, and eight grommets on the other side … It had a ½ inch wide flat ribbon binding on all four sides … Its average weight was 2 ½ pounds.

 

  • 1889 Rubber Poncho, Specification No. 223, adopted by the Army on January 5, 1889: It was 45 by 72 inches … It was made from rubberized cotton sheeting … It had a 14 inch long center opening covered by a 2 ½ inch wide flap secured by one button and buttonhole … It had sixteen, ¼ inch diameter brass grommets, each reinforced with a 1 ½ inch square of matching material, placed around its edges, four grommets along the top and bottom and six grommets on each side … it had a ½ inch wide flat ribbon binding on all four sides … Its average weight was 2 ½ pounds.

 

  • 1894 Rubber Poncho, Specification No. 338, adopted by the Army on January 23, 1894: It was 45 by 72 inches … It was made from rubberized cotton sheeting … It had a 13 inch long center opening covered by a 2 ½ inch wide flap secured by one button and buttonhole … It had sixteen ¼ inch diameter brass grommets, each reinforced with a 1 ½ inch square of matching material placed around its edges, four grommets along the top and bottom and six grommets on each side … It had a ½ inch wide flat ribbon binding on all four sides … Its average weight was 2 pounds, 7 ounces.

 

  • 1895 Rubber Poncho, Specification No. 383, adopted by the Army on December 2, 1895: It was 45 by 72 inches … It was made from rubberized Cambric sheeting … It had a 13 inch long center opening covered by a 2 ½ inch wide flap secured by one button and buttonhole … It had sixteen ¼ inch diameter brass grommets, each reinforced with a 1 ½ inch square of matching material placed around its edges, four grommets along the top and bottom and six grommets on each side … It had a ½ inch wide flat ribbon binding on all four sides … Each poncho was to weight not less than 1 pound, 15 ounces nor more than 2 pounds, 2 ounces

 

  • 1899 Rubber Poncho, Specification No. 477, adopted by the Army on September 20, 1899: It was 60 by 72 inches … It was made from rubberized Cambric sheeting … It had a 13 inch long center opening covered by a 2 ½ inch wide flap secured by one button and buttonhole … It had eighteen ¼ inch diameter brass grommets, each reinforced with a 1 ½ inch square of matching material placed around its edges, five grommets along the top and bottom and six grommets on each side … It had a ½ inch wide flat ribbon binding on all four sides … Each poncho was to weight not less than 2 pound, 11 ounces nor more than 2 pounds, 14 ounces.

Photo No. 06: This rubber poncho was originally posted elsewhere on this Forum. The poncho, which was stiff and brittle, could not be entirely flattened. In its un-flattened state it measured approximately 42 inches wide by 68 ½ inches long. The poncho has a total of sixteen grommets, three on each side and one in each corner. The overall length of the center opening was not mentioned, but it was secured by a single double headed button. The characters “2 ½” CC4302” and “HI”, were stamped in one corner on the poncho’s underside, and were the only markings present. This poncho’s approximate size and its number of grommets corresponds with the specifications for the 1889, 1894, and 1895 pattern rubber ponchos.

 

Link to the original post:

http://www.usmilitariaforum.com/forums/index.php?/topic/262994-us-indian-war-poncho/

 

Photos courtesy of the Malas collection

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  • 06 Indian Wars Poncho Malas I.jpg


#7 world war I nerd

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Posted 31 May 2016 - 06:28 AM

Photo No. 07: Close ups of the markings found on the poncho’s canvas side, half of the double headed button, and one of the poncho’s grommets.

 

Photos courtesy of the Malas collection

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  • 07 Indian Wars Poncho Malas II.jpg


#8 world war I nerd

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Posted 31 May 2016 - 06:36 AM

Photo No. 08: This poncho also posted elsewhere on this Forum, was found in the footlocker of Spanish American War veteran David Allen who served in Company F, 13th Minnesota Volunteers. The poster stated that the poncho was of a regulation pattern that was made after the year 1893. If so, that fact would make it either an 1895, 1899 or 1901 pattern rubber poncho.

 

Link to the original post: http://www.usmilitariaforum.com/forums/index.php?/topic/266232-dating-help-usqmd-stamp-on-1898-issued-poncho/

 

Photos courtesy of the 1st Minn collection

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  • 08 Span-Am Poncho 1st Minn.jpg


#9 world war I nerd

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Posted 31 May 2016 - 06:37 AM

Photo No. 09: This rubber poncho was the property of Private Edward Getke. He served with Company F, 2nd Wisconsin Volunteers during the Spanish American War. Although this poncho’s dimensions were not mentioned, the fact that it was worn during the Spanish American War, and that it had sixteen brass grommets, suggest that it may be the 1895 pattern rubber poncho. Stamped on the reverse of the poncho was an illegible maker’s name. Private Getke’s name along with “Co. F 2 WI” were also handwritten in ink.

 

Photos courtesy of the Oshkosh Public Museum

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  • 09 Span-Am Poncho Oshkosh Public Museum.jpg


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Posted 31 May 2016 - 06:41 AM

20th Century U.S. Army

Black Gum Rubber Ponchos

In service from approximately 1901 to 1908

 

Still not entirely satisfied with the rubber ponchos that it issued, during the first year of the new century, the Quartermaster Department yet again changed the specifications for that garment. It also created three variations of a “large size” rubber poncho. Pertinent details from the specifications on these turn of the century ponchos are as follows:

 

1901 Rubber Poncho, Large Size

Specification No. 535, adopted by the Army on January 31, 1901

(Rubberized Cotton Sheeting)

 

At the time of posting no information or images of the 1901 Poncho, Large Size was available.

 

If any Forum member or visitor has information or photos pertaining to this poncho, or any of the other ponchos, slickers and raincoats shown in this post, please add them to this thread.

 

1901 Rubber Poncho, Regulation Pattern

Specification No. 546, adopted by the Army on August 17, 1901

(Rubberized Cotton Sheeting)

 

The 1901 Rubber Poncho replaced the 1899 Poncho, Specification No. 477, which had been adopted by the Army on September 20, 1899.

 

Dimensions: According to the specifications for the 1901 Poncho, the poncho was 72 inches in length and 60 inches in width. Its overall weight was to be not less than 2 pounds, 11 ounces or to exceed 2 pounds and 14 ounces.

 

Material: The poncho was made from “good quality one-half bleached sheeting” The sheeting was to be thoroughly coated with a compound comprised of various rubbers, lampblack and chemicals. The weight of the sheeting before being coated was 4 ounces to the linear yard. Each poncho was to be vulcanized after manufacture and have a dull finish.

 

Hardware: Eighteen ¼ inch diameter brass grommets were inserted along the poncho’s edges. One “glove fastener” was used to secure the flap that covered the poncho’s center opening.

 

Description: The opening in the poncho’s center through which the head passed was 13 ½ inches in length. The opening, which was positioned crosswise in the center, was covered by a 2 ¼ inch wide flap made from the same material as the poncho. The flap was secured by one glove fastener located in the center of the opening. Six equally spaced, brass grommets were placed along both sides, and three brass grommets were equally spaced between the two corner grommets on the top and bottom edges of the poncho. On one side and at one end the grommets were to be inserted 2 inches from center to the edge of the poncho, and 1 inch from center to the edge of the poncho on the opposite side and end. Each grommet was reinforced by a 1 ½ inch square of matching material. All four sides of the poncho had a ½ inch wide ribbon binding cemented onto both sides of the poncho.

 

Contract Label: No labels, stamps or other markings were mentioned in the specifications.

 

Size: The 1911 Regulation Pattern Poncho was available in just one size

 

1901 Rubber Poncho, Large Size

Specification No. 547, adopted by the Army on August 17, 1901

(Rubberized Cotton Sheeting)

 

Two patterns of this poncho were made: one with grommet fasteners and one with glove Fasteners. Both large pattern ponchos shared the same specification number of “547”. The 1901 annual report by the Quartermaster General made a brief statement about how the large size ponchos came to be and where they would be used:

 

A requisition for 150,000 rubber ponchos of extra large size (90 by 66 inches), with glove fasteners and also with grommets, was made upon this office by the depot quartermaster at Manila

.

Annual Report of the Quartermaster General to the Secretary of War for the Fiscal Year Ended June 30, 1901, page 71

 

1901 Rubber Poncho

Large Size with Grommets

(Rubberized Cotton Sheeting)

 

Dimensions: The specifications for the 1901 Large Size Rubber Poncho stated that it was to be 90 inches in length and 66 inches in width. Its overall weight was to be not less than 3 pounds, 12 ounces or to exceed 4 pounds.

 

Material: The poncho was made from “good quality one-half bleached sheeting” The sheeting was to be thoroughly coated with a high-grade compound comprised of various rubbers, lampblack and chemicals. The weight of the sheeting before being coated was 4 ounces to the linear yard. Each poncho was to be vulcanized after manufacture and have a dull finish

.

Hardware: Twenty ¼ inch diameter brass grommets were inserted along the poncho’s edges. One “glove fastener” was used to secure the flap that covered the poncho’s center opening.

 

Description: The poncho was made in two parts divided lengthwise in the center. The opening in the poncho’s center through which the head passed was 13 ½ inches in length. The opening, which was positioned crosswise in the center, was covered by a flap that was 3 inches wide at center and 5 inches wide at either end that was made from the same material as the poncho. The flap was secured by one ball and socket, glove fastener located in the center of the opening. Seven equally spaced, brass grommets were placed along both sides, and three brass grommets were equally spaced between the two corner grommets on the top and bottom edges of the poncho. On one side and at one end the grommets were to be inserted 2 ¼ inches from center to the edge of the poncho, and 1 ¼ inches from center to the edge of the poncho on the opposite side and end. Each grommet was reinforced by a 1 ½ inch square of matching material. All four sides of the poncho had a ½ inch wide ribbon binding cemented onto both sides of the poncho.

 

Contract Label: No labels, stamps or other markings were mentioned in the specifications.

 

1901 Rubber Poncho

Large Size with Glove Fasteners

(Rubberized Cotton Sheeting)

 

The large poncho with glove fasteners was identical to the poncho described above except that it featured ten ball and socket glove fasteners. Five glove fasteners were equally spaced along each edge of the sides only. The top and bottom edges of the poncho were void of both grommets and glove fasteners.

 

Photo No. 10: This scan is of a poor quality photocopy of the engraving that accompanied the specifications for the 1901 Regulation Pattern Poncho. The brass grommets, as well as the patches which reinforced them, as is the ribbon binding around its edge, are all visible. In the center is the rectangular flap that covered the opening. The concave circular edge of the flap transformed it into a collar when the poncho was worn. The upper left hand corner has been folded back to show the un-rubberized cotton underside of the poncho.

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  • 10 1901 Poncho.jpg


#11 world war I nerd

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Posted 31 May 2016 - 06:44 AM

The final regulation “gum rubber”, Civil War style poncho of the 20th century was adopted by the Army in 1906. The primary difference between the 1906 pattern rubber poncho and its predecessor was that a new and improved rubberizing compound was used, and it also featured a contract label.

 

1906 Poncho

Specification No. 849, adopted by the Army on December 8, 1906

(Rubberized Cotton Sheeting)

 

Dimensions: According to its specifications, the 1906 Poncho was to be 90 inches in length and 66 inches in width. It was to weigh not less than 3 pounds, 12 ounces and not more than 4 pounds, 2 ounces.

 

Material: The body was made from “good quality one-half bleached sheeting weighing not less than four (4) ounces to the linear yard (36 inches wide).” The sheeting was thoroughly coated with a compound composed of various rubbers, tar, lampblack, and sulfur.

 

Hardware: Three ball and socket fasteners were used to seal the flap that covered the poncho’s center opening. Twenty brass grommets were placed around the edge of the poncho. Seven grommets were placed on each side, equally spaced and running from corner to corner. Three additional grommets, also equally spaced, were placed on the top and the bottom between the two corners.

 

Description: The 1906 Poncho was made from two halves divided in the center lengthwise. The center opening through which the head passed when the poncho was worn as a “cape” was 13 ½ inches long. The opening was covered by a flap made from the same rubberized fabric as the poncho that was 3 inches wide at the center and approximately 5 inches wide at both ends. When worn as a cape the flap formed a collar that could be secured by a ball and socket fastener glove fastener. The edges of the poncho had a ½ inch wide flat ribbon binding cemented to each of its edges. Each brass grommet was also reinforced by a 1 ½ inch square “stay piece”.

 

Contract Label: The name of the contractor and the date of the contract were to be stamped in one corner of the poncho.

 

Size: The 1906 Poncho was available only in one size.

 

U.S. Army Oiled Slickers & Ponchos

In service from approximately 1907 to 1917

 

Oilskin in the U.S. Army

After nine disappointing attempts at perfecting the black rubber poncho, the Quartermaster Department had entirely given up on the use of gum rubber as a means to waterproof clothing. It turned its attention instead, to oil treated fabrics which were collectively known as “Oilskin”.

Oilskin is a heavy cotton cloth that had been rendered waterproof by means of a hot solution made from a combination of oil, gum or wax. When saturated, the oil soaked into the cotton material, filled its pores, and thus prevented the fabric from absorbing water. It also created a smooth slick surface which allowed water to easily run off.

 

Although the Chinese were the first to develop an oilskin fabric, oilskin garments have traditionally been associated with sailors and fishermen. Apparently, during the late 1700’s, early 1800’s sailors began to smear their clothing with fish oil, tar and even paint to protect them from inclement weather and ocean spray. Before long worn out sails were being recycled into foul weather deck coats that had been painted with a concoction of fish or linseed oil and wax. By the mid 19th century oilskins had become the established rough weather attire for sea going men.

 

Landsmen took notice of the curious, durable, and weatherproof oilskins worn by the sailors who came ashore. Enterprising clothing manufacturers realized the need for practical waterproof garments and adapted the sailor’s oiled clothing for use on land. Shortly thereafter, a host of oilskin hats, gloves, trousers, ponchos, capes, and jackets were being produced and marketed for land based outdoorsmen and military men.

 

Early oilskins were far from perfect. The oil impregnated garments were found to be durable and waterproof, but they were also heavy, stiff and uncomfortable to wear. In addition, the natural oils used had a low melting point. During hot weather this caused the garments to become sticky, and in extreme cases the oil actually liquefied and ran. Later manufacturers of oilskin garments developed various formulas which combined oils with other elements, such as paraffin, gum or beeswax to minimize the sticky nature of traditional oilcloth.

 

An early 20th century Cavalry Boards investigation into what type of garments might best be suited for mounted duty had this to say about the various oilskin slickers tested. Ultimately the Board left the decision as to which type of slicker to adopt in the hands of the Quartermaster General:

 

In compliance with this request the Board received 66 slickers made of Protex cloth and 11 slickers made of Federal cloth, (5 of the latter being sail cloth and 6 sheeting), all designed after a pattern which the Board had submitted. When these slickers had been received from the manufacturer, it was observed that the Protex garments were somewhat sticky while those of the Federal cloth and sheeting were not. This was surprising because the reports of the service tests, above mentioned, had show especially that Protex cloth had no tendency to stick together even in the Hawaiian Islands where the 5th Cavalry had made a test …

 

The 77 slickers were carried on the pommels of saddles during a 500 mile march for 23days and were worn for 5 rainy days. All the slickers wore well. The Protex stuck together objectionably while the Federal did not stick to any extent which was noticeable.

 

During the last few weeks of the Board’s sessions, two slickers were received from the office of the Quartermaster General, with information that they were made of the same material as that used in the infantry poncho. These slickers impressed the Board favorably but there was not sufficient time to test them as to wearing qualities.

 

Report of the U.S. Army Cavalry Board, Page 80, 81

 

The one thing that both the Infantry and Cavalry officers agreed upon in 1908 was that a type of long, loose, water repellant coat made from oiled fabric that was called a “Slicker” would henceforth be authorized for all mounted troops of the U.S. Army, and that a new pattern of rain poncho, also made from oiled fabric would be prescribed for all foot troops of the U.S. Army. This decision was summed up in all three editions of the Manual of Military Hygiene, which were published in 1909, 1914 and 1917 respectively:

 

In our service the question has been decided, and apparently wisely, by the issue of a “poncho” to the foot soldier and a “slicker” to the mounted man. These articles do not add much to the weight of the pack and are otherwise valuable in protecting the soldier from damp soil in camps and bivouacs.

Manual of Military Hygiene for the Military Services of the United States, 3rd Edition, Colonel Valery Havard, 1917, page 433

 

The 1907 Oiled Pommel Slicker, adopted on November 11, 1907, was the first oilskin garment approve for use by the U.S. Army. This was followed by the 1908 Poncho, adopted on June 4, 1908, and a suit of black oilskin clothing made up of a hat, trousers and coat that was adopted at the end of 1909 or the beginning of 1910.

 

1908 Poncho

Specification No. 960, adopted by the Army on June 4, 1908

(Oiled Cotton Sheeting)

 

At the time of posting no information or images of the 1908 Poncho were available. Because the Quartermaster Department had issued the 1907 Oiled Pommel Slicker only the year before, and waterproof cotton fabric would not be adopted until 1911, it is thought that the 1908 Poncho was made from oiled cotton, but that has yet to be proven.

 

If any Forum member or visitor has information or photos pertaining to this poncho, or any of the other ponchos, slickers and raincoats shown in this post, please add whatever you may have to this thread.

1907 Oiled Pommel Slicker

Specification No. 919, adopted by the Army on November 11, 1907

 

Dimensions: The overall length of the slicker varied depending on its size from 55 ½ inches to 60 inches. The overall weight of the garment also varied depending on the size. The largest of the four sizes (No. 0) was not to weigh more than 7 pounds, 10 ounces. The smallest of the four sizes (No. 3) was not to weigh less than 5 pounds, 12 ounces.

 

Material: Its outer shell was made from cotton sheeting* that weighed 14 ounces to the linear yard after it had been treated with the “proper oiled mixtures, fillers, etc.” The lining was composed of the same cotton sheeting material as the outer shell, but it was of a lighter weight. It was approximately 8 ½ ounces per linear yard after the oil treatment. Dark brown corduroy cloth was used for the collar. The inner sleeves were lined with fleece-flannel and each sleeve had an elastic cord at the wrist.

 

Hardware: The front of the 1907 Oiled Pommel Slicker was secured by four, solid brass, automatic Thomson No. 10 clasps and slots. Each clasp and slot was fixed in place by means of a 5/16 inch copper cap and a ¼ inch brassed rivet. Leather stays were inserted under each clasp. Three brass-covered, 27 ligne buttons were placed on the collar to fasten the “throat latch”. Ten ball and socket snap fasteners were utilized as follows:

  • Four: to secure the storm flap at the front of the slicker.
  • Two: one on each side of the skirt, to secure the right and left hand sides of the slicker around the respective leg of the rider wearing the slicker.
  • Three: which, when engaged, fastened the lower half of the front opening. By doing so the wearer was able to transform the mounted slicker into a “walking coat”.
  • One: to close the rear opening of the coat.

Description: The corduroy collar was approximately 3 inches deep at the center and 2 inches deep at either end. A “throat latch” with a buttonhole at each end was located under the right hand half of the collar. Each sleeve had a 3 inch deep “shoulder cap”. One outside patch pocket, made from the same material as the slicker which was approximately 7 inches wide by 7 inches deep and having a 2 ½ inch wide flap, was placed on the right hip, just below the waist. The rear of the coat was split nearly to the waist to prevent binding when mounted. The coat also featured a fantail, which was called the “cantle piece”, which, when spread out covered the equipment stowed on the rear of the saddle.

 

Contract Label: A standard contract label, fastened by four rivets, was located near the neck, under the flap on the left hand side of the slicker. The label was to show the name of the contractor, the date of the contract, the name of the depot, and it had a space at the bottom for the inspectors’ name to be stamped.

 

Size: The 1907 Oiled Pommel Slicker was available in four numbered sizes:

  • Size No. 0 … 56 inch chest … 60 inches in length
  • Size No. 1 … 54 inch chest … 59 inches in length
  • Size No. 2 … 52 inch chest … 58 inches in length
  • Size No. 3 … 50 inch chest … 55 ½ inches in length

Photo No. 11: Engravings of the 1907 Oiled Pommel Slicker. Note the capped shoulders and that the early pocket had clipped lower corners.

Attached Images

  • 11 1907 Oiled Pommel Slicker.jpg


#12 world war I nerd

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Posted 31 May 2016 - 06:47 AM

Photo No. 12: The color of the oil treated cotton sheeting was not mentioned in the specifications for the 1907 Oiled Pommel Slicker. It’s possible that the slicker was dark brown in color as that was the color of the slicker’s corduroy collar. Depending on the type of oils used, traditional oilskin cloth could vary in color from dark yellow to amber to russet brown.

The 1907 Oiled Pommel Slicker was probably similar in color to this commercially made oilskin slicker, also made with a corduroy collar that dates to approximately the same period.

 

Photos courtesy of the Dragoon collection

Attached Images

  • 12 Commercial Oiled Cotton Slicker c 1907.jpg


#13 world war I nerd

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Posted 31 May 2016 - 06:48 AM

Photo No. 13: In this photo taken in mid to late 1917 or early 1918, at least two patterns of the Oiled Pommel Slicker are present … with capped shoulders, and without. There is not enough detail present to determine if the light colored slicker, third from left, is an Oiled Pommel Slicker or the recently adopted 1917 Mounted Slicker.

 

Photo courtesy of the John Adam-Graf collection

Attached Images

  • 13 1907 & 12 Pommel Slickers.jpg


#14 world war I nerd

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Posted 31 May 2016 - 06:50 AM

1912 Oiled Pommel Slicker

Specification No. 1168, adopted by the Army on September 9, 1912

 

Dimensions: The overall length of the 1912 pattern slicker was a few inches shorter than its predecessor. However, its overall length still varied, depending on its size. The length of the 1912 pattern slickers ranged from approximately 48 inches to 57 inches. No mention was made in the specifications of the new slicker’s overall weight.

 

Material: Although the specifications did not say, the 1912 slicker was presumably made from olive drab cotton “waterproof sheeting” as the specifications did call for the use of olive drab thread and tape. There was also no mention of the type or weight of the material from which the slicker was to be fabricated. Dark brown corduroy cloth was however, still used for the collar. It would also appear that the fleece-flannel that lined the inner sleeves of the 1907 pattern slickers had been omitted as that material was not mentioned in the new specifications. The elasticized inner “wind cuff” at the wrist was retained.

 

Hardware: The front of the new slicker was secured by seven clasps and four slots. No mention of the type of clasp or slot was made. Presumably they were of the same pattern. Each clasp and slot was reinforced by a 1 ¾ inch square piece of russet leather. One glove snap fastener was used to seal the opening for the rifle, which was a new addition to the 1912 pattern slicker. Four 24-ligne, olive drab vegetable ivory buttons replaced the ball and socket snap fasteners and brass tack buttons which were used on the 1907 pattern slicker. The vegetable ivory buttons were place thusly on the 1912 pattern slicker:

  • One, on the right front side of the skirt to close the gap between the right and left hand lower skirts.
  • One on the underside of the left half of the collar to secure the “collar tab” or throat latch located on the underside of the right half of the collar.
  • Two on the right hand side of the rear skirt opening in order to keep the rear opening closed.

Description: The underside of the corduroy “standing rolling” collar now featured a “collar tab”, rather than the throat latch found on the older pattern. shoulder caps were omitted. The single outside patch pocket located on the right hip, at 8 inches wide by 9 inches deep with a 2 ½ inch wide flap was slightly larger in size. An oval shaped “rifle opening” was added to the left hip of the slicker. It was needed to accommodate the 1912 Cavalry “Ring Belt’s” tether, which when mounted, secured to the service rifle to the rider. The 1912 slicker still featured a triangular shaped “cantle piece” in the form of a gusset, made from the same material as the slicker. Its purpose was to both cover and protect the equipment carried on the rear of the saddle, or “cantle”, from inclement weather.

 

Contract Label: The 1912 pattern slicker’s standard contract label was moved to, and sewn inside the pocket. The label was to show the name of the contractor, the date of the contract, the specification number, the name of the depot, and it had a space at the bottom for the inspectors’ name to be stamped. In addition, a “size ticket” was attached to the rear inside of the new slicker’s collar.

 

Size: The 1912 Oiled Pommel Slicker was available in four numbered sizes:

  • Size No. 1 … 38 inch chest … 48 inches in length
  • Size No. 2 … 43 inch chest … 50 inches in length
  • Size No. 3 … 43 inch chest … 54 inches in length
  • Size No. 4 … 46 inch chest … 57 inches in length

 

How the 1912 Slicker Differed from the 1907 Slicker

 

The 1912 Oiled Pommel Slicker differed from the 1907 pattern slicker in that it:

  • Was Shorter in overall length by approximately two to three inches
  • Was now officially olive drab in color
  • No longer had fleece-flannel lined sleeves
  • No longer had capped shoulders
  • Featured seven, rather than four, clasps which made the slicker’s front opening somewhat adjustable
  • The brass tack buttons and ball and socket snap fasteners had been replaced by vegetable ivory buttons
  • Had a slightly wider and taller patch pocket on the hip
  • The pocket’s lower corners were square and no longer clipped
  • Now had a rifle opening on the left rear skirt
  • The contract label had been moved to the inside of the pocket
  • A size ticket was now attached to the rear inside of the collar

Photo No. 14: Period photos indicate that the Oiled Pommel Slickers were made with and without capped shoulders. Shoulder caps were present on the 1907 pattern slicker, but were eliminated from both the 1912 and 1913 pattern slickers.

 

Photo courtesy of the John Adam-Graf collection

Attached Images

  • 14 Oiled Slicker Shoulder Caps.jpg


#15 world war I nerd

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Posted 31 May 2016 - 06:52 AM

On July 23, 1913, the Quartermaster Department issued new specifications that covered three separate articles. However, only one new specification number was issued. That number was Specification No. 1194, adopted by the Army on July 23, 1913. Listed under that new specification number was:

  • A new type of waterproofed fabric that would not become sticky
  • A new slicker made from the new fabric
  • A new poncho also made from the new fabric

The new material from which both the 1913 pattern poncho and slicker were made was referred to as “Waterproofed Material” in the specifications. The specifications did not state whether or not the waterproofing compound used was oil or rubber based. It is also not known if the Specification No. 1194 was assigned to only the new fabric or if it was intended to identify the new fabric, as well as the new poncho and the new slicker.

 

1913 Waterproofed Pommel Slicker

Specification number possibly 1194, adopted by the Army on July 23, 1913

 

As near as I can tell, according to the 1913 dated specifications, no structural changes were made to the 1913 pattern slicker. The only material change made, was that a new and improved “waterproofing compound” was applied to the olive drab cotton drill material from which the slicker was fabricated. The new compound prevented the material from sticking and discoloration when packed in storage. After the application of waterproofing compound the new material was to weigh no more than 9 ounces per square yard.

 

Photo No. 15: The left hand view of a 1913 pattern Slicker shows six of the seven clasps arrayed in three rows of two. The seventh clasp is hidden underneath the slicker’s collar. Opposite is the back of an unissued 1913 Slicker. Both slickers are dated 1917.

 

Photos courtesy of the Dragoon collection

Attached Images

  • 15 1913 Pommel Slicker II.jpg


#16 world war I nerd

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Posted 31 May 2016 - 06:53 AM

Photo No. 16: Close up of the unissued slicker’s cantle piece and the flap of the rifle opening. According to the following passage from General Pershing’s report on the 1916 Punitive Expedition, the “latter pattern” or 1913 Pommel Slicker’s performance was considered to be adequate:

 

V. Clothing

1. As far as known, clothing was satisfactory in quality. Complaint was made the slicker of oiled fabric was unserviceable, the water-proofing compound oozing out and smearing the garments of the wearer. The defect has been corrected in the latter pattern of water-proofed slicker which is designed to replace the older pattern.

 

Punitive Expedition Report, Major General John J. Pershing, October 10, 1916, page 65

Photos courtesy of the Dragoon collection

Attached Images

  • 16 1914 Pommel Slicker III.jpg


#17 world war I nerd

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Posted 31 May 2016 - 06:54 AM

Photo No. 17: Period photos showing the oiled and later waterproofed Pommel Slicker in use are rare, so please forgive the less than impressive quality of this image depicting troopers of the 13th Cavalry Regiment wearing slickers while in pursuit of Pancho Villa in Mexico during the 1916 Punitive Expedition.

 

Photo courtesy of the Dragoon collection

Attached Images

  • 17 Slickers in Mexico.jpg


#18 world war I nerd

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Posted 31 May 2016 - 06:55 AM

Photo No. 18: Back, front and side views of the 1913 Waterproofed Pommel Slicker. Note that on the rear view, the cantle piece has been wedged under the left hand sleeve

 

Photos courtesy of the Dragoon collection

Attached Images

  • 18 1913 Slicker Overall.jpg


#19 world war I nerd

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Posted 31 May 2016 - 06:56 AM

Photo No. 19: Close up showing the single clasp and slot at the top of the coat, and the 1913 pattern slicker’s collar tab in the closed (left), and in the open position (right).

 

Photos courtesy of the Dragoon collection

Attached Images

  • 19 Collar Tab.jpg


#20 world war I nerd

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Posted 31 May 2016 - 06:57 AM

Photo No. 20: Close ups of the 1913 pattern slicker’s square cornered, patch pocket and pocket flap.

 

Photos courtesy of the Dragoon collection

Attached Images

  • 20 Pocket & Flap.jpg


#21 world war I nerd

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Posted 31 May 2016 - 06:58 AM

Photo No. 21: Details of the 1913 pattern slicker. Clockwise from upper left: ventilation grommets under the arm, 1917 dated contract tag sewn inside the pocket, early style tack button, and a fastened clasp and slot. Clasp and slot fasteners were chosen over buttons or snaps because they were easier to operate while wearing leather or woolen gloves.

 

Photos courtesy of the Dragoon collection

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  • 21 1913 Slicker Details.jpg


#22 world war I nerd

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Posted 31 May 2016 - 06:59 AM

Photo No. 22: A 1912 dated photograph taken by the Cavalry Equipment Board showing how the cantle piece spread out to cover the saddle. The photo also displays the service rifle, with cover, protruding through the rifle opening when tethered to the rider’s ring belt. Note that this 1912 pattern slicker does not have capped shoulders.

 

Photo courtesy of the Dragoon collection

Attached Images

  • 22 1913 Slicker with Rifle.jpg


#23 world war I nerd

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Posted 31 May 2016 - 07:01 AM

Photo No. 23: Close up of the rifle opening in both the closed and open positions.

 

Photos courtesy of the Dragoon collection

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  • 23 Rifle Pocket.jpg


#24 world war I nerd

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Posted 31 May 2016 - 07:02 AM

Photo No. 24: Inside and outside views of the service rifle, with cover, passing through the rifle opening of a 1913 pattern Slicker flank sandwich a close up of the open rifle opening. Note the glove snap fastener used to secure the flap.

 

Photos courtesy of the Dragoon collection

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  • 24 1913 Slicker Rifle Pocket.jpg


#25 world war I nerd

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Posted 31 May 2016 - 07:04 AM

Photo No. 25: The absence of capped shoulders, the presence of a rifle pocket and the flapped patch pocket identify the coats worn by these two members of an ambulance company as the 1913 Waterproof Pommel Slicker.

 

Since horse and mule drawn vehicles made up such a large portion of the transportation of a ambulance company in 1917, certain troops assigned to those organizations were considered mounted troops. Therefore, in 1917 they were issued slickers rather than ponchos. The U.S. Army stated as much in the 1917 Uniform Regulations:

 

Slickers instead, of ponchos, are issued to men of the Quartermaster Corps, both mounted and dismounted, and to enlisted men of the Medical Department detailed as ambulance drivers and ambulance orderlies.

 

Regulations for the Uniform of the United States Army, 1917, page 48

Attached Images

  • 25 Pommel Slickers in France.jpg



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