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Philippine Campaign field blouse

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I have been, for some time, searching for information regarding the uniforms
that have been attributed to foreign producers for US troops in the Philippines
during the Spanish-American War and Philippine war (1898-1902). Although action
continued long after the political declaration of the cessation of hostilities,
in the later period of the conflict, the supply of tropical uniforms from the US
would have eventually reach the level of demand; thus, foreign produced articles
of clothing would have been from the early period of the conflict.

Samples from (USMF) Ludwigh1980's collection, as well as my own, have blue rank
insignia as used by the Infantry into 1899, when it was changed to white.
Specifications were not written for the khaki field uniforms until 1899. These
uniforms do not conform to any specification; moreover, there exists a tremendous
variation among specimens; however, they do have certain commonalities that have
been discussed in prior topics.


In the publication "Survey of the U.S. Army Uniforms, Weapons, and Accoutrements"
by David Cole, the author asserts these uniforms to be British Pattern 95 Foreign
Service type (p.37); detailed photographs of 1895 foreign service uniforms in
British museums does not support this claim. Although similar, they are distinctly
different from one another. (This has been discussed in a prior posting.)

I have fequently seen an assertion that the US purchased uniforms en mass directly
from British Hong Kong; however, such assertions are never attributed to a source.
As such it remains unproven.

Although I have failed to discover an official Government document indicating payment
for such clothing on a Federal level, I have found contemporary discussions published
in periodicals of military interest that address the use of foreign sources of material
and the foreign production of American tropical field uniforms purchased on an
individual level.

Some of the articles have been edited for brevity.

"[...] here in the Philippines we have good khaki and bad khaki. From Hong Kong we
get a uniform made on the English model, of good design but a bad fit. It is of
excellent material, lightweight; never fades, and comes back from the native laundress
fresh and immaculate any number of times. But the khaki we get from America has not
thus far been a success. The garments we get now are very well cut and made, but the
color vanishes whenever touched by perspiration, leaving dirty white streaks, and the
entire garment fades to a dirty white with repeated washing."

Dec 29th 1900

"The khaki now received in the Philippines from the United States is reported as wearing
well, holding its color, and giving general satisfaction. The Hong Kong clothing is
made of good English Khaki, holds its color and wears well, but is not made up in as
good shape as that received from the United States."

Nov. 10th 1900 This is an excerpt from The Report of the Quartermaster General (Q.M
Gen. Brig. Gen. M.I Ludington) reprinted.

The above quoted material contradict one another with regard to color durability; yet,
it must be remembered the information found in the Quartermaster General's report may
reflect an institutional bias vs the opinion of the soldier in the field observing,
wearing and laundering his own clothing.

Color fading was still a topic of debate in late 1902.

"In reply to the statement in the annual report of the Quartermaster General of the Army
that American made khaki will not hold color, the Quartermaster's Department explains
that the khaki obtained at the outbreak of the Spanish War was very inferior and would
as stated fade to some extent. Since then, and especially in the past year, experiments
have been conducted by the Department with a result that a khaki has now been obtained
which has no superior in the world and will hold its color no matter how long exposed to
the wet. Some of the old khaki, however, is still being issued, and is probably some of
this stuff which came under the eye of the Inspector General called forth in his recent

Nov. 22nd 1902

The first article addresses complete uniforms, and not just British fabric, being sourced
from British Hong Kong. Moreover, these uniforms are being made on the English model.
They are basing the cut and fit on their 1895 foreign service uniform, but not necessarily
the pattern. Although similar at first glance, they distinctly differ.

There exist a large amount of variation among the material used, and how it's assembled.
Some uniforms are sewn completely using treddle machines; others partially sewn by machine
with some seams finished by hand; and others still are completely sewn by hand.
Some internal belts use metalic friction locks to form fit the blouse to the body; others
use buttons of bone, ivory, or metal. Some have external hooks in the back to secure an
external belt. Some have cloth covered buttons, others have Federal pattern buttons.
The front pockets may or may nor have button hole closures. All of this variation
suggests a cottage industry of many manufacturers producing uniforms in Hong Kong, or
domestically using English materials.

The production of these uniforms would continue until sufficient quantities of uniforms
using quality dyes and materials could be delivered to the Philippines by the Quartermaster
corps to meet the troops' demands.

This particular blouse has the cloth covered external buttons. It has an internal belt
that is closed using a metalic friction lock; it also has sewn brass hardware in the
rear (external) to support an externally worn belt with the uniform.

It is not named and its history is unknown.



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Nice coat and great article.




Never lose sight of the fact that the most important yardstick of your success will be how you treat other people - your family, friends, and coworkers, and even strangers you meet along the way.

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A very interesting coat. What is not mentioned by the QM is that the local Filipino outfitters (of which there were several well known firms) to the Spanish military located in Manila also started to supply the US military with uniforms by the end of the war as well.

They may have imported some of their basic material from Hong Kong as the British were the world's premier maker of khaki drill, but were offering nearly everything an officer would need, certainly by the end of 1902. They began sourcing insignia and other uniform items from US suppliers, sometimes under their own label.

Enlisted men who chose to purchase tailored uniforms could do so as well.

So initially it appears that Hong Kong itself was were some were made, but that would have changed as QM supplies from the States improved and local makers in Manila got into gear with their new American clients. So the "cottage industries" mentioned were more likely in Manila itself.

As for the coat shown, just where it was made is not clear without a label of course. I have seen Cuban made uniforms with cover buttons as well.


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Another great coat Mike.


To add with what CB mentioned, It has been recorded in the unit document of units that served in the Philippines prior to 1902 of a sizable Chinese population in Manila many of who were engaged as merchants. It is purely speculation on my part that some of these Chinese, well known for garment and laundry services may have engaged in uniform fabrication. This idea falls inline with ties to Hong Kong. We can't forget that there was already a long established trade network established by the Chinese in this area.


Seeking Model 1895 and 1902 Named Officer coats as well as Spanish American War Tropical Uniforms.
Also pre WW2 marine uniforms. Always pre-1945 Colorado National Guard Items wanted! Also seeking Rhodesian

Uniforms and Gear used by Americans in the Rhodesian Security Forces during the Bush War (Africa).


Fortune cookie say: "An expert is someone that knows so much about so little."

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I have recently discovered documentation of that which had always been suspected.


Manila. (Received February 12, 1899 - 3:00am)

Adjutant-General, Washington:

"Have contracts with Shanghai and Hongkong
(sic) houses for 50,000 khaki
uniforms, 20,000 to be delivered in March, rest within four months; have
10,000 white uniforms suits delivered. No khaki or white uniforms required
from United Stares, only 50 two-horse wagons required. [...]"

[Elwell Stephen] Otis.
[Maj-Gen. VIII Corps]


Major-General Otis would become Military Governer of the Philippines in August,

1899. Although I have no doubt that uniforms were also produced locally, and

offered for sale to both officers and soldiers on an individual basis, the above

communication by Major General Otis with the Adjutant-General in Wash. D.C.

confirms that there were military contracts with British Hong Kong to produce

unforms in quantity for American troops. The date of this communication also

confirms these uniforms were produced early in the conflict.

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Has anyone tried to look what's under the cloth of the covered buttons? Is the base smooth, British or what?




The buttons on my blouse are tightly covered with cloth that do not allow inspection of the reverse

side; however, the front surface is completely flat without die embossed adornment.



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I wondered if perhaps they were Brit, then covered to obscure original source. Has anyone noticed the old Bannerman catalogs? They listed Brit. khaki coats. I have always wondered if any saw US service, sans Brit. buttons, of course.


I once had a similar coat -- 2 pocket, high collar, inside belt, khaki straps, US buttons, etc. I have seen photos of similar coats in use, but could not connect their use to troops in PI. (Another Forum member owns it now -- with Hospital Steward chevrons.)


I found the photos at Carlisle Barracks -- now US Army Soldier Center.


This is an interesting variation.





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The Otis document does show that initially uniforms were obtained from China. The local Filipino suppliers would of course not yet be ready to supply much of anything at this early date.

The situation would be changed by 1901 however, when the war was "officially" concluded and the US firmly in place in the PI.

Also as mentioned, Manila ( and the rest of PI ) has always had a huge Chinese population and they are still the among the most prominent merchants and business men today.

Most of the tailors in Manila during the American period were Chinese.



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Does anyone have any more info on the blouses with the cloth covered buttons? I have had one for years and was not sure what it was but always thought it was from this period. Any photos of these being worn by U.S. troops?

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Cloth covered buttons were a stylistic affectation of the period seen on private purchase coats. I do not believe them to have been on US Government issue. I have seen these on one coat that was made in Cuba and a few that were made in PI and I think even the US. It is possible these items were intended as off duty walking out clothing as they were of course not regulation.



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The 1st Colorado Volunteer Infantry, left the Philippines in 1899. Many of the enlisted wore these style of coats home with the cloth covered buttons. I have a photograph of one wearing such a coat, have to dig it out to post. As to the issue of the cloth covered button, I theorized it was due to lack of eagle buttons. With the initial units that went to the Philippine in 1898, I am sure massive quantities of buttons were not something supply or the quartermaster corp was too concerned with, outside what each soldier carried in his housewife or sewing kit. Besides Cuba, and Puerto Rico, this was the first large scale expeditionary force the U.S. Army fielded and so far from the U.S. (nearly 7,000 miles away). Pretty amazing when you think about it. The logistics involved were quite remarkable.


Terry in Colorado


Seeking Model 1895 and 1902 Named Officer coats as well as Spanish American War Tropical Uniforms.
Also pre WW2 marine uniforms. Always pre-1945 Colorado National Guard Items wanted! Also seeking Rhodesian

Uniforms and Gear used by Americans in the Rhodesian Security Forces during the Bush War (Africa).


Fortune cookie say: "An expert is someone that knows so much about so little."

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