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Indiana Sack Coat 1st Sgt. Sports Fan c.1886-1890

Started by Sgt. Stubby , Jul 15 2017 06:17 PM

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#1 Sgt. Stubby

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Posted 15 July 2017 - 06:17 PM

I have what I believe is a unique, private-purchase "special occasion" undress blouse. Similar to M1876 Officer's Undress Blouse, with gold braid instead of regulation black braid. Matching M1884 Gold Bullion Dress Chevrons.

This is a super trim, flashy outfit. The real surprise is 11 original INDIANAPOLIS ATHLETIC CLUB BUTTONS. The IAC was founded in 1886 as a premiere private club for society, business and political elite. What patriotic INDIANA LEGION or GUARD commander wouldn't wink at IAC buttons on this - as Beast said in another thread - "PARTY LIKE IT'S 1899!" coat?

What do you think?
Lots more photos and research to follow.

- Comstock

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  • IAC COAT sm.jpg


#2 Sgt. Stubby

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Posted 15 July 2017 - 06:48 PM

ITEM DESCRIPTION: Object is a well tailored M-1876 pattern sack coat, dark blue wool. Gold braid on edges and cuffs. M-1884 pattern gold bullion appliqué 1st sergeant's dress chevrons, points-down. 11 original IAC monogram buttons, 5 on front, 3 on each sleeve. Fully lined in black cloth. Sleeves lined in white ticking with red stripes. 2 interior pockets lined in brown cloth (the left inside pocket is vertical and allows the hand to reach it by opening one button). Coat and Buttons manufactured by The M.C. Lilley & Co., Columbus Ohio.

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  • IAC COAT back inside sm.jpg


#3 Sgt. Stubby

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Posted 15 July 2017 - 06:52 PM

Detail of Indianapolis Athletic Club buttons.

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  • IAC COAT Detail Sm.jpg


#4 Sgt. Stubby

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Posted 15 July 2017 - 09:16 PM

IAC MONOGRAM BUTTONS: While we might expect a Federal or State button, this special coat was manufactured with an extremely rare IAC monogram brass button by M.C. Lilley & Co. The INDIANAPOLIS ATHLETIC CLUB was founded in 1886, and besides credited with bringing football to Indiana, was an elite private club for the social, business, and politically well connected. Collectors can appreciate an ORIGINAL COMPLETE SET OF 11 ULTRA-RARE INDIANAPOLIS ATHLETIC CLUB BUTTONS. Button identification verified in March 1959 edition National Button Bulletin. (See more IAC information below.)

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  • IAC Buttons ID sm.jpg


#5 Sgt. Stubby

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Posted 15 July 2017 - 09:34 PM

INDIANAPOLIS ATHLETIC CLUB: The original Indianapolis Athletic Club was founded in 1886 and quickly became a premiere private club for Indiana businessmen and society elite. It was especially active in Indiana Democratic politics. Credited with fielding one of the first football teams in Indiana, and hosting many of the earliest games. The IAC also promoted baseball and boxing matches. An IAC member was proud of his affiliation, and could expect many professional courtesies and opportunities from fellow members. It is likely the decision to order IAC monogram buttons on a "special occasion" blouse could only have helped promote an Indiana military career.

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  • IAC Promo sm.jpg


#6 Sgt. Stubby

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Posted 15 July 2017 - 09:55 PM

INDIANAPOLIS ATHLETIC CLUB VS. DETROIT ATHLETIC CLUB.
It's fun to see this very early tradition of PLAYING FOOTBALL ON THANKSGIVING.
Detroit beat "us" on Thanksgiving 1897. However, according to the ATHLETICS, RACING AND GENERAL SPORTING RECORD, we got them back in 1898!
Authors Voyles and Bluth cite the Spanish American War as the reason they lost.

#7 Sgt. Stubby

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Posted 15 July 2017 - 10:48 PM

CONDITION: (For this description, "right" and "left" will be as viewed from the front.) Overall very good original uncleaned condition AS PICTURED. All original buttons present. Bottom button has non-professional vintage reattachment with thread. Gold braid edging secure and unfrayed. Exterior seams strong throughout. Small rips to interior lining/seam at front corners - 5.5" (139mm) rip left side, 2.5" (63mm) rip right side. Small hole in lining under left armpit. Left inside pocket has quarter sized hole in lining at bottom. Left sleeve interior worn as pictured. Various nicks and rubs interior and exterior. Substance spill (house paint?) on right arm. Moth hole in right chevron (5:00 of lozenge). Very slight moth nips right of spill. Chevrons partially detached, minimal conservation reattachment performed with monofilament loops. Silk label deteriorated stabilized with consolidation treatment. (See additional condition info and photos below.)

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  • condition 01 sm.jpg


#8 Sgt. Stubby

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Posted 15 July 2017 - 11:19 PM

CONSERVATION: Light removal of lint and hairs with adhesive tape for photos. Buttons were not cleaned. To conserve certain elements, minimal monofilament loops were employed (these being easily identified and reversible). Top button secured with monofilament loop. Left chevron received 3 loops, right chevron 7 loops. The silk M.C. Lilley label was only attached on right side, deteriorated, frayed, and actively shedding fibers. It was decided to conserve the remaining material by realigning threads and consolidating the fibers in a 4% Klucel-G solution. A hemp tissue backing was applied and left side was reattached with monofilament loop. Small spill of white material on right sleeve was lightly dabbed with cotton swab in distilled water to no effect. Similar treatment with cleaning fluid (Ronsonol) had no effect. It was thought best to leave this decision to future conservators.

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  • IAC conserve 1.jpg


#9 Sgt. Stubby

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Posted 15 July 2017 - 11:50 PM

"THE M.C. LILLEY CO. COLUMBUS, O.
Military & Society Goods"

Silk Tag in original condition and after consolidation.

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  • IAC Conserve 2.jpg


#10 Sgt. Stubby

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Posted 16 July 2017 - 12:23 AM

INTERPRETATION/SPECULATION: This is an INDIANA LEGION OR GUARD FIRST SERGEANT'S "SPECIAL OCCASION" UNDRESS BLOUSE c.1886-1890.

This well-tailored M1876 pattern blouse is sized about a 38L, which would likely indicate a tall, slim, young man's coat. It is expensively made to impress, with non-regulation embellishments of gold braid edging, and gold bullion dress chevrons.
The Indianapolis Athletic Club buttons tell us the owner was probably a sports fan, and socially well connected.

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  • IAC 3 views sm.jpg


#11 BEAST

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Posted 16 July 2017 - 04:55 AM

Comstock,  That is a very nice coat and you did an excellent job with your research!  Here is my speculation and so far it is only that.  I believe this was worn by a militia company formed by members of the Indianapolis Athletic Club hence the buttons.  In the 1870s & 1880s, the militia companies in Indiana were allowed to design their own formal dress uniforms,  In the late 1870s, there are complaints by inspectors of the variety worn by the Indiana Legion when it was paraded together at an encampment.  By the 1880s, this was solved by requiring all companies to wear the federal uniform for field and undress, but the design of the dress uniforms were still left to the companies.  

 

As popular as the IAC was, I would be surprised if there are not photos in one of the archives here showing their militia company.  I will check with our state library & archives to see if they have any thing.  Is their a name in the coat?  


Edited by BEAST, 16 July 2017 - 04:57 AM.


#12 Sgt. Stubby

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Posted 16 July 2017 - 05:22 PM

Beast, thanks for the response. I would SO like for your scenario to be true!

No name - no easy button. Too bad. I checked inside pockets and sleeves, used a blacklight, nothing.

If you could find info on the existence of an Indianapolis Athletic Club militia unit, that would so helpful. To see a photo of them would be too much to hope for! I assumed our 1st Sergeant was an IAC member only, but an IAW militia unit would fill a lot of holes.

The coat is what it is. It has gold lace DRESS chevrons on it, yet is what is normally a falling collar 5-button undress coat. As you know, mid 1880s dress uniforms were all about gold braid, lots of buttons, and that standing collar.
Is there any indication that there were ANY such 5-button falling collar dress uniforms? I don't know if at the time it would be considered sporty and dashing - or plain sloppy?

That's why I imagined it as some young renegade 1st sergeant ordering a flashy, one of a kind "special occasion" undress coat. And dammit, he's going to have gold braid edges and the $3.50 gold dress chevrons too. Just the thing to impress that special girl he's taking to the IAW Ball. If his entire militia unit was decked out in comparable outfits - my goodness what a sight that would have been!

If there ISN'T an IAW Militia unit - then the prestige of being an IAW member displayed as buttons on a very flashy "special occasion" coat makes sense to me. It tells any rank, "this sergeant is a privileged son of Indiana, treat him so". The buttons themselves could have been designed for an IAC Militia unit, but just as likely designed for use on IAC club jackets.

Searching for information on the Indianapolis Athletic Club has been quite problematical. Nearly all online sources say the IAC was incorporated in 1924 - when they opened their new 9-story clubhouse building. My heart sunk when even the Encyclopedia of Indiana insisted the same thing. Lucky I was able to discover the "Indianapolis Athletic Club" + "football" connection and was able to find 1880s-1890s references to matches played, the 1886 founding, etc.

Deduction tells me the 1924 incorporation was actually a restructuring of the "old" Indianapolis Athletic Club founded 1886.

There was serious money involved in 1920 when the IAC purchased an expensive downtown mansion and lot from Indianapolis businessman Frederick Fahnley, on which they built the new 9-story clubhouse. Fahnley is described as an IAC member, yet he died in 1923, before the 1924 incorporation. This indicates to me that the "new" IAC is a reorganization of the "old" IAC from the late 19th century. I wonder if the oldtimers got nostalgic and decided to reorganize the old gang into a new, upscale 20th century version?

I'M SO VERY GRATEFUL Beast for your interest and assistance!!!

- Comstock

Attached Images

  • IAC Union.jpg


#13 Sgt. Stubby

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Posted 17 July 2017 - 03:46 PM

TO FELLOW RESEARCHERS:

Beast asked how I IDENTIFIED THE INDIANAPOLIS ATHLETIC CLUB BUTTON. That's a good question and I post for posterity how it was done. This is encouragement for other researchers to DON'T GIVE UP! Just when it gets darkest something often comes to light.

I knew that identifying the "monogram" button was the key to identifying the coat. I spent 3 days searching online - an hour or 2 each day - and couldn't find anything. As a military button I'd thought it would be a lot easier!

When I get frustrated doing research I walk away and then come back. Sometimes I work on intuition - get a flash idea and follow it. (Hope that doesn't sound too superstitious!) Anyways, day three I was at home and then thought, "uniform + button + monogram". Went to my computer to google it.

That did it! Scrolling down I found a button dealer (vintagebuttons.net) who just happened to post a single page of buttons from NATIONAL BUTTON BULLETIN March 1959. It was entitled "NBS Article on Confusing Monogram Uniform Buttons" and showed FOUR buttons. Not military - street sweepers and railroad men type buttons. Clicking on the link brings up the full page of buttons from the Bulletin. That 1959 article was about the difficulty of identifying buttons - illustrated with 24 random buttons, only 4 being monograms. Number 18 is the IAC button.

Here's the chronological order:

1. 24 unusual buttons were randomly chosen for publication by NATIONAL BUTTON SOCIETY in March 1959. These are not military buttons. Included were FOUR MONOGRAM BUTTONS, out of possibly thousands in the monogram button category. The text reads, "This group of monograms well illustrates the trouble we encounter in attempting to identify such patterns."

2. Vintagebuttons.net randomly chose the article out of thousands of vintage National Button Bulletin articles. There are virtually NO other such pages available online (without joining NBS).
Out of those 24 buttons, he chose Row 5 (including IAC button) to illustrate link to the page.

3. I googled "uniform + button + monogram" and scrolled down to find a page "uniform - vintage buttons". Clicking on that, I scrolled down and saw an engraving of 4 buttons - IAC being one of them.

You can imagine how I rubbed my eyes and couldn't believe it! You know how they say, "the gods were smiling that day"? Well, the button angels were working hard overtime, starting in 1959, just to get this IAC coat ID'd 58 years later. Incredible, huh?!!! As Bill & Ted say, "Strange things are afoot at the Circle-K."

Thanks to vintagebuttons.net.

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  • NBB 1959.jpg


#14 BEAST

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Posted 18 July 2017 - 08:14 AM

Good thinking! "Monogram" is not a search term that I would have thought to use.

#15 Sgt. Stubby

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Posted 19 July 2017 - 03:04 PM

Latest INTERPRETATION/SPECULATION:

"Object is a 5-button sack coat Dress Uniform belonging to a First Sergeant, possibly of the Indianapolis Light Infantry, c.1886-1902."

The gold bullion chevrons identify it as a post 1884 dress uniform. The non-military buttons indicate a non-federal unit, its owner a member of the Indianapolis Athletic Club.

Reenactment outfitter Quartermaster Depot describes the M1887 sack coat:
"As a garrison, field and campaign service blouse worn by all branches of the regular Army and National Guard, THE COAT WAS ALSO USED AS A DRESS COAT. 5 button front, 3 button cuffs."

In the 1880s Indiana had many Federal army units, but the pre-National Guard Militia (Indiana Legion) was an all volunteer, self funded and supplied organization. The Indianapolis Light Infantry was a crack competition drill unit, with many Indianapolis athletes as members.

Army observers in 1883 reported Indiana Legion units had non-regulation uniforms.

I will post more research highlights as it develops.
Thanks Beast for your ongoing help and suggestions!

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  • Beetles Book 02.jpg



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