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Spanish American US Navy Enlisted Uniform


SGM (ret.)

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Hi all,

 

I recently received this uniform from a family friend. It was left for the better part of the last century on a dirt basement floor. The sea bag that had held it had completely rotted away, and cleaning the uniform up was quite a bear. (The white uniform had completely rotted into dust and dirt.)

 

Fortunately, this uniform eventually clean-up with some elbow grease and TLC.

 

The grouping consists of the flat hat, the shirt, pants, ditty bag and a tintype of the owner wearing this (or another of the same type) uniform. The owner was Yeoman 2CL, Samuel Claude Sessions of South Carolina.

 

The ship he served on was the USS Vixen, a converted yacht that participated in the Battle of Santiago Bay (among other actions). The night before the fleet arrived to blockade Santiago Bay, two sailors (firemen) on board the Vixen were awared the Navy MoH for bravery during damage control in the engine room (steam pipe manifold gasket explosion).

 

This is somewhat outside of my normal collecting interest and experience, so if anyone has any comments or observations, please feel free to sound off.

 

Mike

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Here are some more views of the uniform:

 

A 3/4 rear view; The flat hat; a photo of the tintype. In the tintype, you can see Yoeman Sessions has his watch indicated on his left (port side) shoulder (remember the tintype is a mirror image) with white stripe.

 

The uniform has all of the features of the 1897 regulation pattern. This includes the small tie at the bottom of the front neck opening, the hand stiched white stars on the neck flap, and 11 buttons on the pants front opening.

 

Mike

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Some details of the shirt front opening and the neck flap.

 

Note the discoloration (looks like fading) on the shirt is much more noticible in the photos than in person. The camera flash enhanced the difference I think because the discolored areas don't have as much nap on the fabric surface (these were areas that were in direct contact with the rotted sea bag and the dirt basement floor).

 

Mike

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A reverse view of the same. (I didn't reduce the file sizes enough when I resized these photos and couldn't put both views on the same post- sorry).

 

Mike

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Detail view of the pants front flap showing the 11 button opening. The number was later changed to 13 around the turn of the century. According to my research, the reason for the increase was only because more buttons were needed. It is an old wive's tale that the number was made to be 13 in honor of the original 13 states.

 

Also a view of the ditty bag. Does anyone know if sailors were given service numbers at such an early date? The number here, 2214, is stenciled on in black paint. The bag is hand-sewn. The only contents when I got it were about a dozen "clothes stops." These are pieces of light cotton line, about a foot in length, very carefully whipped on the ends which (according to my research) were used as sailor's "clothes pins" to tie washing onto a drying line.

 

I'd love to get some more information on how this (tying the washing onto a drying line) was done- beyond the obvious. I'd think that there must have been some "old salt" tricks to doing this chore.

 

Mike

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Here's a view of the owner's name stenciled in white paint inside the cuffs of the pants. The name is repeated twice inside each cuff.

 

Mike

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Here's the owner's name stenciled inside the shirt tail, once again in white paint. It is repeated in two other places around the inside of the shirt tails. It is interesting to note, the shirt tail is not hemmed, but is cut on the edge with a zig-zag and a single line of stiching. At first glance it looks like a selvage edge, but it's not. A strange construction detail.

 

Mike

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Here's a shot of the inside of the hat. You'll note that the lining has almost rotted out, once again because of how the hat was laying on the dirt floor. The lining is a blue-white checked cotton "ticking" type material. The headband is a heavy burlap material sandwitched inside of the wool. You can also see the owner's name stamped in white paint (same size stamp as was used in the shirt tails).

 

Fortunately, the interior damage is not visible on the outside of the hat, so it still displays quite nicely.

 

Mike

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Final view for tonight's postings.

 

Here's the Yeoman 2nd Class sleeve insignia. It's been carefully hand-sewn using a cross stiched type pattern. The red stripes are a fine, crushed velvet.

 

The black silk neckerchief and the knife lanyard are repros. The silk neckerchief is OK for this display, but I am looking for an original, turn-of-the-century Navy issue knife lanyard.

 

I have a couple of detail pictures of what these lanyards look like if someone isn't sure what I'm talking about. If I can't find an issue one, then I'm planning to "lay" one up myself using bleached cotton line. (I braded the one in the photos from nylon cord for practice.)

 

Hope someone out there found this unifom interesting. I've learned a lot researching this one. (I never knew much at all about the Spanish American War, much less about the Naval battles!)

 

Take care,

Mike

 

PS, Sorry for having to make so many separate postings. I should have resized all of the photos to much smaller files.

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usmcraidergirl

What an excellent find! It is SOOO rare to find a Navy uniform from this period that is un-messed with... and not to mention it is nearly impossible to find one to a guy that is named (and the name is still visible) AND a picture! Wow!

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Thanks Raider Girl.

 

I was horrified when the family friend handed me a plastic garbage bag from out of the trunk of her car with the uniform in it. She had cleaned out her deceased father's basement, and the old rotted seabag was burried under a pile of junk. The lady's an old friend of my mother's; they grew up together, and she knows about my collecting. Bless her heart for thinking about me and scraping the uniform up off the dirt floor.

 

(I thought it was pretty hopeless when I started looking at it. Patience, cold water, and Woolite along with some gentle, but persistant, scrubbing and scraping brought it back. I do have the missing buttons, too, and may sew them back onto the shirt cuffs and pants front at some later date.)

 

Yeoman Sessions was her uncle (father's older brother), and she still has several other tintypes of him from this time period. He originally joined the SC State Militia and then enlisted in the US Navy at the start of the SAW. The other photos show him in his state militia uniform and wearing his white uniform (from the photographer's studeo background, possibly taken in Cuba after the war).

 

As for the markings: the uniform is marked exactly according to the 1897 Navy uniform regulations, as far as I can tell. (With the exception of the multiple / repeated stencils: I would guess this was done because the first markings applied were not 100% legible.)

 

I'd be interested in any other information that other members might have in reference to these uniforms. In particular, I'm trying to figure out the "service number" (presumably) that's stenciled on the ditty bag. My reading of the 1897 Uniform regulations don't mention any kind of service numbers, so I'm not sure if that is in fact what the number is, if it was a service-wide usage, or only a fleet or ship afectation.

 

I have some illustrations and text from the 1897 regulations that I'll post later to show and describe the uniform details.

 

Mike

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First let me say Great Uniform. Now you ask how the stops were used, they were used two ways, first each piece of the uniform was rolled and tied with them. This was done for inspections and to make packing the sea bag easier. Second they were used, as you said, as clothes pins, if you look at the bottom edge of the jumper you should see two holes with stitching around them on each side. The stops would be threaded through them and then it would be tied to a railing or what ever. The same should be found on the waist band of the pants. Also I am not sure if you tucked the jumper into the pants so we could see the top of the pants better but the jumper should not be tucked in. There should be a draw string at the bottom of the jumper, this would be pulled tight around the waist and the jumper bloused over the pants, much the same way the Army blouses the pants over the boots.

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Hi QED4.

 

Thanks for the reply and info on the clothes stops. The shirt and pants both do indeed have pairs of round, sewn eyelets (on the bottom sides of the shirt and the top sides of the pants). I had wondered about them, since they're clearly not useful for ventilation. Mystery solved! I suspected that there was more to the story than just the obvious.

 

As for blousing or not blousing the shirt (or jumper, as you refer to it): there's no blousing draw-cord on the bottom. It has a zig-zag, raw cut edge on the bottom (shirt tails) with a single line of stiching to keep it from unraveling. At first glance, it looks very much like a selvage edge, but on closer inspection, you can see that it was made that way. By the way, the eyelets for the clothes stops are on the side seams, just above the bottom edge of the shirt tail. So, I don't think the shirt could have originally had a tunnel sewn around the bottom for a draw-cord.

 

I'll post a picture later from the 1897 uniform regulation. It clearly shows the shirt bloused at the top of the pants. The only way this shirt could possibly be done so would have been by tucking it in. The shirt tail is also very long in comparison to, say, a modern dress shirt.

 

It's possible that the draw-cord was a later (or earlier?) design feature.

 

Thanks again for the reply,

Mike

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Could you post a picture of the bottom of the jumper? There is so little good reference material on this period that every bit of information is a big help. I just looked in "Spanish American War 1898" by Ron Field and he shows a cabinet photo of two sailor with their jumpers definitely bloused as all you can see is the rolled under edge of both of them. However next to that picture is one of a Cutlass Drill where they have their jumpers tucked into their pants. I am now thinking that tucked in or not may have been the difference between the Dress Jumper and the Undress Jumper. I don't remember ever seeing what we think of today as an undress jumper (no cuffs and a plain bib) from that time period. If anyone else can shed any light on this I would be grateful as it really has me wondering now, another can of worms opened.

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"Regulations Governing the Uniform of Commissioned Officers, Warrant Officers, and Enlisted Men of the Unted States Navy With Plates - 1897" Here are Plates VI and VII which show both summer whites and winter blues for the 1897 uniform of enlisted men. :D Sarge Booker (hhbooker2@yahoo.com) (POST SCRIPT: Would you like to receive free scans by email? I can email you scans of Navy uniform regs from 1852 to 1941, including the 1897 uniform regs too, email me.)

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Final view for tonight's postings.

 

Here's the Yeoman 2nd Class sleeve insignia. It's been carefully hand-sewn using a cross stiched type pattern. The red stripes are a fine, crushed velvet.

 

The black silk neckerchief and the knife lanyard are repros. The silk neckerchief is OK for this display, but I am looking for an original, turn-of-the-century Navy issue knife lanyard.

 

I have a couple of detail pictures of what these lanyards look like if someone isn't sure what I'm talking about. If I can't find an issue one, then I'm planning to "lay" one up myself using bleached cotton line. (I braded the one in the photos from nylon cord for practice.)

 

Hope someone out there found this unifom interesting. I've learned a lot researching this one. (I never knew much at all about the Spanish American War, much less about the Naval battles!)

 

Take care,

Mike

 

PS, Sorry for having to make so many separate postings. I should have resized all of the photos to much smaller files.

Hi,

Nice grouping, the yeoman rating badge looks like 1905 through WW1. The Lanyard should be pictured in the 1897 regs. Too bad this group was not stored in a closet or the attic.

John

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QED4: I'll post a photo of the bottom edge of the overshirt when I get a chance. Unfortunately, I didn't take a photo of that, and I'm now away from home on business. But, not to worry, I will get you a picture of that detail. The regulations reference two different clothing items that we may be confusing here. One is a blue flannel jumper, the other is the blue overshirt. The uniform that I have posted is the overshirt. (Although in reading, there doesn't seem to be much difference between the construction of the two.)

 

hhbooker2: Sir, you beat me to the punch on posting the plates from the 1897 regulations. I won't repeat the ones you posted here, but will add the blue trousers plate and the text from the applicable section covering the overshirt and trousers.

 

From the Special Regulations Section of the book posted above:

 

OVERSHIRT.

For all enlisted men, except chief petty officers, officers' messmen, and bandsmen (Pl. VI, figs. 3 and 4).—Of dark navy-blue flan¬nel, loose in the body; back and breast to be of double thickness, such double part to descend four (4) inches below the line of the shoulder blades, and to be cut with a deep shield shape. Neck opening to extend downward seven (7) inches, and to be covered by a detachable breast piece of double thickness, having button¬holes in each corner and secured by four (4) corresponding buttons on inside of shirt. Sleeves to be from twenty (20) to twenty-three (23) inches in circumference, and to be sewed to cuffs in six box or double plaits, over the lower edges of which the upper edges of cuffs will be sewed Collar of double thickness; to be from nine (9) to ten (10) inches deep and from fifteen (15) to eighteen (18) inches long (according to size of shirt) ; square corners, to be trimmed with three (3) stripes of white linen tape three-sixteenths ( 1 3/16) of an inch wide and three-sixteenths (3/16) of an inch apart, the outer stripe to be one-quarter (1/4) of an inch from the edge, the stripes to extend down in front to the bottom of the neck opening; to have a plain five-pointed star, three-quarters (3/4) of an inch in diameter, worked in white in each corner, its center to be one and one-eighth (1 1/8) inches from inside (bottom and side) edges of inner stripe. Cuffs of double thickness, three (3) inches deep, with wrist slits extending three (3) inches above the upper edge of cuffs; to be fastened with two small black navy buttons; to be trimmed around with stripes of white linen tape three-sixteenths (3/16 )of an inch wide, as follows: For petty officers of the first, second, and third classes and enlisted men of the seaman first class, three (3) stripes, one-quarter (1/4) of an inch apart, the middle stripe to be in' the center line of the cuff; for enlisted men of the seaman second class, two (2) stripes, one-quarter (4) of an inch apart, the middle line of the space between the stripes to come over the middle of the cuff ; for enlisted men of the seaman third class, one (1) stripe, placed over the middle line of the cuff. A small pocket to be let into the left breast with a straight opening, strengthened at each end by a crow's-foot, or diamond point, worked in black silk; lining of pocket to be of same material as shirt.

 

BLUE TROUSERS.

For all enlisted men except chief petty officers, stewards, officers' cooks, and bandsmen (Pl. VIII, figs. 3 and 4).—Of dark navy-¬blue cloth; to fit snugly over the hip and clown the thigh to two (2) inches above the knee, from which point downward to be cut bell-shaped and full enough to be pulled over the thigh; one seam on each leg on the inside; wide turn-up hem at the bottom. Waist¬band to be two (2) inches wide in front and one and one-half (1 1/2) inches wide at the back, fastened in front by two (2) buttons, the lower one serving also as the center button for the flap; to have a gusset at center of back, two (2) inches wide at top (when open) and four and one-half (4 1/2) inches deep-that is, three (3) inches below the band-with six (6) eyelet holes on each side, two (2) of which shall be in each end of waistband, and a flat black-silk lacing, three-eighths (3/8) of an inch wide, run through them. Flap to be six and one-half (6 1/2) inches deep, with a crow's foot worked in black silk at the lower corners; upper corners to be rounded; to have eleven (11) buttonholes around the sides and upper edge so arranged as to show seven (7) across the top and three (3) on each side. Pocket in waistband on each side. Small black navy but¬tons to be used.

 

The plate illustration is from the regulation and the detail of the trouser's side is from my uniform. You can see the small sewn eyelets that QED4 mentioned were used to tie the trousers to a drying line when doing the washing. You can also see the black silk "crow's foot" referenced in the regulation.

 

You can find the regulation online at: <http://www.quarterdeck.org/uniforms/1897/21-37%20Enlisted%201897.htm>

 

Mike

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Here's a plate of the blue uniform, but this time from the 1886 regulation. You can see some small detail differences, but these might be more in the area of artistic license. Here the shirt is either tucked into the pants or somehow otherwise bloused at the waist.

 

And on final detail of the shirt pocket area of my uniform. In this view, you can see the decorative stiching and the black silk "crow's foot" reinforcing. This photo also gives a better idea of the actual color of the uniform. It's quite a bit darker than the earlier photos I posted.

 

Mike

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Hi John (topdcnut),

 

Yes, the knife lanyard is illustrated in a regulation plate. I've also found a collection photo of one. The written description in the regulation implies that the lanyard could be hand-made (it gives the description of the brading style to be used - a flat sennit - and material - bleached cotton), but the illustration and photo of the issue lanyard clearly show a "factory made" lanyard made from a woven flat, almost harringbone-twill-like tape with a round, factory made knife loop.

 

I'm lamenting the fact that the lanyard wasn't stored with the rest of the uniform items and has been lost to history. Hence my hand-laid practice piece in the display and hope to find an original in the future.

 

US Navy uniforms are quite outside my regular collecting area. I'm interested in your comment reference the style of the rating badge. My research efforts, so far, have been pretty limited.

 

Below is a side-by-side comparison of the rating badge on my uniform and one of the ones illustrated in the 1897 regulations. There are obvious differences in the angle of the eagle's head, but the only references that I've read about the rating badges speak to the eagle's wing tips (either pointed up or out), but no mention of the head. Of course, the regulation plate is an artist rendering and not an actual badge. So, that could account for the difference (or not).

 

Perhaps someone can post some comparison photos of the rating badges as they appeared over various time periods. Might make a nice reference posting.

 

Mike

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Here's a plate of the blue uniform, but this time from the 1886 regulation. You can see some small detail differences, but these might be more in the area of artistic license. Here the shirt is either tucked into the pants or somehow otherwise bloused at the waist.

 

And on final detail of the shirt pocket area of my uniform. In this view, you can see the decorative stiching and the black silk "crow's foot" reinforcing. This photo also gives a better idea of the actual color of the uniform. It's quite a bit darker than the earlier photos I posted.

 

Mike

The jumpers of the SAW still had draw strings in them. The jumpers them selves were now worn out of the trousers, so the original owner may have just removed it to reduce bulk. These draw strings were a feature of Navy jumpers until the end of WW 2. Most were removed, but my father says that he and others retained them to "semi-blouse" thier jumpers to hold cigarettes and such. The lanyard is actually an issue item and was worn from 1883 until 1913. It was not for a knife, but was expressley for the Sailors locker key. These turn up on e-bay every now and then.

 

At the time of the SAW, there was no specific "Undress blue jumper". Old blue uniforms were simply worn for work. Speaking of whick, you have your neckerchief rolled backwards. Once it is folded into a triangle, the point of the triangle is rolled in to the long edge. The number on the ditty bag woould be the Sailors "Billit Number" This number is assigned per ship. It is sometimes also refered to as a "Ships Number". This number corresponds to the "Watch, Quarter and Station Bill" that lays out where each Sailor is to be for each ships evolution, From where he slings his hammock, where his cleaning station is, battle station, coaling station and so forth.

 

And, that is a beutiful uniform. And of course, too bad the rest of the gear was lost. Great Job saving this one. Thank you.

 

Steve Hesson

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Mike,

You can tell by the way the chevrons are sew on. Here is a link with navy rates shown from this fourm. http://www.usmilitariaforum.com/forums/index.php? Take notice of the stitching. It's a great looking navy uniform and hat.

Jason

Hi,

That link I posted just takes you on this fourm. Go under the ranks section, 2nd page click on 1886 navy rates there are some from 1890's.

Jason

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Mike,

You can tell by the way the chevrons are sew on. Here is a link with navy rates shown from this fourm. http://www.usmilitariaforum.com/forums/index.php? Take notice of the stitching. It's a great looking navy uniform and hat.

Jason

Sorry for all the replies, but this link should take you there http://www.usmilitariaforum.com/forums/ind...20&start=20

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Hi,

 

The issue type lanyard you are looking for is described in the 1897 uniform regs as a knife lanyard and pictured in the noted plate. Of course one hand made out of the proper dia. cotton line works too. I sent a scan of one of mine, they used to come up on ebay for about 10 bucks. They are shown in the 1905 regs in the pants pocket in the blues and in the jumper pocket of the whites.

 

T/Y John

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