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Web Gear colors 1903 to 1917


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#1 world war I nerd

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Posted 20 March 2009 - 10:56 PM

New Romantic and I have been trying to work out the color changes made on the early webbing and cartridge belts between 1903 and 1917 and are seeking any input or additional information on the topic.

This is what we have discovered so far:

The woven cotton and canvas field gear was manufactured in khaki (I always refer to it as 'khaki tan' because of it's lighter tan color) from 1903 until sometime in 1907. During that period the color of the webbing was supposed to match that of the early khaki cotton service dress as closely as possible, which for the most part all examples that I have seen seem to do.

In July 1902 the Quartermaster General ordered the adoption of an olive drab wool service uniform for better concealment on the battlefield and because the khaki cotton service dress was deemed unsuitable for year round wear in colder climates. However, the QTMC held off issuing the O.D. service dress until existing stocks of the M1899 Blue Wool Sack Coat (that were left over from the Spanish American War) had been depleted. During this time the O.D. service dress was issue on a limited basis, mostly to troops returning from the Philippines.

As late as 1906 there was still a significant supply of the outdated blue coats in storage and the QTMC decided to sell them off at a reduced price for off duty wear in order to expedite the issue of the O.D. service uniform at all army posts.

The army wide issue of the O.D. uniform seemed to coincide with an army decree from 1907 that called for the color of all army cartridge belts, revolver belts and suspenders, etc. to be changed. The order stated that the equipment must be

“Dyed an olive drab color of the same standard shade as prescribed for the olive drab colored uniform of the United States Army.”

As a result during the change from khaki to O.D., field gear was made in 1907 show up in both colors, Khaki was used until the existing supply was exhausted, after which the new O.D. color was used until it was changed sometime in 1914.

In 1914 the eagle snap fasteners were changed to 'rimmed' and the dye used to color the woven cotton was also changed from the standard shade of O.D. to a brighter shade of O.D., often referred to as ‘pea green’. As always during the change the equipment was made in both colors (O.D. & pea green), but by far the majority of post 1914 equipment with rimmed eagle snaps were made from the brighter pea green color.

I've noticed that when the pea green belts begin to fade they begin to resemble the older O.D. color, however, when you place the two colors side by side there is an obvious difference.

I have been unable to discover exactly why the color was changed from O.D. to pea green.
One possibility is that the O.D. dyes that were used by most U.S. clothing manufacturers were imported from Europe and began to dwindle as a result of the War. I believe this to be true in later years but since the change was made in 1914 which was the year that the war in Europe began; I don't think that the dye industry would have been drastically affected at that early date.

The pea green color was eventually changed to khaki drab in 1917 as a direct result of the wartime shortage of imported European O.D. dyes and a lower quality domestic dye was substituted. Initially the original color approved by the QTMC was a true khaki drab, but as the demand for more and more equipment grew the QTMC was forced to relax its color standards and this resulted in the color of wartime produced field gear ranging from a light tan color to a dark olive drab color.

Can anybody provide any explanations, thoughts, theories, proof or actual documented information on why the color was changed? Or provide photographs of the pea green color being used on any pre 1914 dated field gear?

All comments and photos welcome

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  • a_Web_Colors_1903_to_19917.jpg


#2 artu44

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Posted 20 March 2009 - 11:41 PM

This topic will be blessed cause it will the ultimate reference in speaking about web colours. Up to now I've heard about olive drab (no number), golden khaki, yellow mustard khaki, pea greenish and I've added (my fault) even grass greenish.
To continue discussion, I can say that all my pre WWI M1912 pistol belts are in OD with the exception of the rimmed snap one which is pea green as the relevant ammo pouch. Now there are many chances my rimmed snap would have been retrofitted cause it has only one keeper and only one patent as early production (while there are many rimmed snap belts with two keepers and two patents) but if so it would be OD colour. Maybe also redyird?. Too bad none of them has a readable date but for sure they were made until 1917 cause we know that after this date colour changed to khaki. There are rumors that Mills used to buy the OD dying agent in Germany so with the war supply ceased. Anyway I have an M1910 Mills mounted ctg belt dated september 1917 which is khaki and I saw an april 1918 dated M1912 in OD.
BTW I've found also 1941 production different from others in colour. I have a Burlington Mills 1941 mounted ctg belt which looks pea green as well a minty M1936 R.M.CO pistol belt.
In the pic my pre WWI M1912 with the rarest in the bottom: a 1917 OD with second type buckle and the 1916 plain snap.

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Edited by artu44, 20 March 2009 - 11:59 PM.


#3 artu44

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Posted 20 March 2009 - 11:42 PM

Few wartime M1912s of mine

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#4 artu44

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Posted 20 March 2009 - 11:57 PM

A russell 1918 top and a Burlington Mills 1941. An early (only one patent) M1910 garrison belt.

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#5 world war I nerd

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Posted 21 March 2009 - 12:01 AM

Artu 44,

Thank you for posting youe excellent collection of early belts. I hope with the help of enthusiastic collectors like yourself we can get to the bottom of the O.D./ pea green color mystery.

One thing I forgot to menion was that the color samples I posted were in my opinion the most common. Obviously each belt will differ due to age, soiling, use, fading, laundering and manufacturer (Mills vs Russel) and there will no doubt be many exceptions to the rule. But if there is enough input we may be able to see some specific patterns or trends, which I believe will match what I noted in the original post.

Sadly my knowledge does not extend beyond WW I when it comes to the various colors used on later web gear.

#6 rayg

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Posted 21 March 2009 - 04:31 AM

WWI Nerd and new romantic you are to be complimented on your research on this subject as well as for the other early period items you have posted about. These posts should be pinned to the referrence section on here, http://www.usmilitar...p?showforum=146 It is the most detailed info written so far on these subjects. In my collecting of items from the CW through WWII, as with most collectors I have aquired basic knowledge of each item but never the fine particulars. As they say, Jack of all trades but master of none. The service you are providing in aquiring the fine details of some of these items deserves a big thank you guys. I will be looking forward to the info on the early shoes once you get it sorted out also for to my knowledge no-one has ever put early regulation shoe info/history in any easily understandable format. Ray

Edited by rayg, 21 March 2009 - 04:32 AM.


#7 New Romantic

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Posted 21 March 2009 - 02:41 PM

Until WWI Nerd mentioned it, I had never noticed the change in shade of OD in 1914. Now that I think about items I own/ sold spanning 1911-1915 there does seem to be a difference between in OD 1914 and later items versus pre 1914 made items. The pre 1914 items tend be of a ruddy green shade and then anything made after 1914 have more blueish green tone.

On colours of webbing here's what I've observed-

Gear made between 1907-1911 can be found in both khaki and OD. Mills seems to have started making gear in OD before Rock Island Arsenal and many items found today reflect this. By 1909 Mills starts to make OD cartridge belts, the M1909 Cavalry and M1910 Mounted belts being the best example of this.

On the other hand RIA is making khaki gear through 1911. WWI Nerd suggested that RIA may have been using stocks of khaki canvas as it was on hand. By 1912 most RIA produced items are finally made in OD. See this topic for more info- http://www.usmilitar...mp;#entry265929

For me the colour change that occurs in 1914 is still blurry. Fortunately WWI Nerd has begun research on that subject.

In 1915 khaki webbing again begins to appear on accouterments. This tends to show up on items like M1910 haversack suspenders and smaller web pieces such as the tab on the back of a shovel cover that secures the wire double hook hanger.

#8 New Romantic

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Posted 21 March 2009 - 02:44 PM

Here are a few photos of 1907-1910 made items in khaki, though not as tan as items made before 1907. The 1903 dated canteen cover shows the contrast of early vs. later khaki shades. All items are worn on a 1910 cotton service coat in the 1907 specified shade of OD.

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Edited by New Romantic, 21 March 2009 - 02:46 PM.


#9 New Romantic

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Posted 21 March 2009 - 02:45 PM

Second view of the 1907-1910 accouterments. Note the earlier tan shade of the canteen cover.

Later today I'll post some 1913-1915 items worn on a uniform.

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#10 New Romantic

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Posted 21 March 2009 - 03:13 PM

This photo shows a 1914 dated M1910 1st pattern haversack, 1913 dated first aid pouch, and 1915 dated belt. The coat is 1911-1914. Unfortunately the contract tag is washed out so I can't pin an exact date of manufacture for it.

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Edited by New Romantic, 21 March 2009 - 03:14 PM.


#11 New Romantic

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Posted 21 March 2009 - 03:28 PM

This 1902 Spec cotton coat is shown with an M1903 cartridge belt ( 1905-1907 manufacture) and 1903 dated canteen placed on top to illustrate some of the early khaki shades. The M1904 haversacks would also be in the same shade of khaki as the canteen cover.

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#12 New Romantic

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Posted 21 March 2009 - 06:03 PM

Another photo of the 1907-1910 khaki accouterments, but this time contrasted with a 1907 spec olive drab wool service coat.

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#13 New Romantic

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Posted 21 March 2009 - 06:07 PM

I grouped together some of my 1913-1915 dated items. There are varying shades here but nothing too drastic between 1913 items and 1915 items. I'll let you be the judge here.

From left to right- 1913 dated shovel cover and first aid pouch; 1914 dated haversack; and 1915 dated cartridge belt and wire cutter carrier.

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#14 New Romantic

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Posted 21 March 2009 - 06:20 PM

Pea Green- the nearly universal description among collectors of the olive drab shades used on field gear prior to 1917.

In my opinion this seems to be a collector's term. If it is when did "pea green" come into use among the collecting community? I say this because I've searched among period documents prior to 1917 but have found no use of the term.

However WWI Nerd states that a change in olive drab shade occurs in 1914 and this has been called "pea green", which is described as being distinct from the olive drab used prior to 1914.

All observations and opinions are encouraged and appreciated to help shed some light on this subject. Since WWI Nerd and I are collaborating on a book about US Army Uniforms and Field Gear from 1902-1916, we want to make sure that we have everything as accurate as possible.

Edited by New Romantic, 21 March 2009 - 06:21 PM.


#15 TrenchRaider1918

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Posted 21 March 2009 - 07:44 PM

Ok, here are my early pistol belts again with the corresponding .45 pouches.

Green_Belts_and_Pouches.JPG

Both of the belts are dated 1913, and both of the mag pouches are dated 1914. I think the rimless pouch has a lighter green tone than the rimmed one. So can we say that the date for this transition is 1914? The rimless pattern preceded the rimmed pattern though, maybe the snaps were added to a batch of newer material. The same goes for the belts, if I have a 1913 dated belt in lighter green and eagle snap added, then this too would have to be added to a newer batch of woven material.

Another note I would like to add is that the brass hardware on the eagle snap belt looks to have never been blackened as opposed to its earlier counterpart. Also the later wartime patterns are blackened.

Just my observations,

Carl

#16 TrenchRaider1918

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Posted 21 March 2009 - 08:00 PM

Here is a 1913 dated dismounted cartridge belt and a 1914 dated first aid pouch.

Green_Cart_Belt_and_FA_Pouch.JPG

The belt shows a lighter shade of green then the first aid pouch, yet the pouch is dated later than the belt.

#17 TrenchRaider1918

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Posted 21 March 2009 - 08:15 PM

Ok, one more for tonight.

Here is a cartridge belt dated April 1917, and a canteen from 1917. This belt has always piqued my curiosity since it has a unique shade of green. It looks like it was originally wartime khaki but redyed to green for some reason, the dye is spotty in some places.

1917_Belt_and_Canteen.JPG

#18 artu44

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Posted 21 March 2009 - 11:44 PM

Ok, one more for tonight.

Here is a cartridge belt dated April 1917, and a canteen from 1917. This belt has always piqued my curiosity since it has a unique shade of green. It looks like it was originally wartime khaki but redyed to green for some reason, the dye is spotty in some places.


Some WWI equipment was dyied OD7 during WWII.

#19 artu44

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Posted 21 March 2009 - 11:47 PM

An all 1913 rig.

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#20 artu44

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Posted 21 March 2009 - 11:50 PM

The pouch in the middle is a RIA1917 (nearly unreadable)

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#21 world war I nerd

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Posted 23 March 2009 - 12:14 AM

Thanks everybody for posting and sharing.

Just a few additional thoughts based on whats been posted so far.

Obviously, because we are dealing with the army, the different opinions of what passed for the official khaki, O.D. and O.D./pea green colors in the eyes of the different QTMC inspectorsas at any given time, as well as a number of material suppliers and manufactuers including Rock Island Arsenal, its only natural that the colors of individual pieces will be all over the map. But it still seems to me that the colors can be lumped into the three pre 1917 colors:of:

"khaki tan" which can range from almost white to a deep golden or red-brown color

"olive drab" which can range from a drab greenish brown to a dark olive green

"O.D./pea green" which is similar to the above O.D. color which definately has a strong bluish tinge to it

New romantic seems to have hit on something regarding the use of khaki well past the year 1907, after it was supposed to have changed. I looked at the link he posted and noticed that the majority of post 1907 khaki items seem to have be made from canvas duck rather than woven cotton.

This could be because:

1. There was an enournous amount of khaki canvas on hand.

2. There was some difficulty dying the canvas fabric as opposed to dying the woven cotton.

3. Or that the change in webbing colors only applied to the items that were worn continously like the cartridge belts.

4. Or that the army wide issue of O.D. uniforms was so slow that there was still a need for the older khaki color equipment to be worn with existing stocke of khaki clothing.

Any way just some food for thought...

#22 New Romantic

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Posted 07 April 2009 - 08:50 AM

Two shades of OD/ pea green on a 1914-1915 2nd Pattern M1910 Haversack meat can pouch.

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#23 maxx

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Posted 05 June 2009 - 05:19 PM

Cleaning rod cases:

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