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  1. #1
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    5-lobe cantles c1860 America

    Something struck me as odd and interesting, as I poured over dozens of 19th century images.

    The Highlanders Of Scotland provides an amazing variety of cantle designs, and many or most of these are seen time and again in period photos, and extant vintage items.

    I did a thread giving closeup photos of all the HOS sporran types

    http://www.xmarksthescot.com/forum/f...cotland-67675/

    and another thread comparing these to similar surviving examples.

    But there seems to be a cantle design that's uniquely American, and that's a cantle with five more or less equal curves/lobes/lunettes across the bottom.

    It first came to my attention in photos of the 1858-1861 Full Dress uniform of the 79th New York State Militia. (Full Dress was retired when the regiment was brought up to full strength for active service in 1861; only the original four companies were ever issued it.) Here they are, in 1861





    Here you can perhaps see it more clearly, with the reproduction I had made by L&M, based on a full-size tracing of the original pre-war sporran housed at the Gettysburg Museum.



    Here, in an 1872 photo, you can see that only the man on the right is wearing the pre-war 1858-1861 sporran; the other men are wearing the completely different sporran adopted post-war, when an entirely new Full Dress was introduced.



    The fascinating thing is how often one comes across vintage photos of civilians, taken presumably in or around New York, showing a similar sporran cantle shape, and how this shape seems to never appear in images taken anywhere else (Scotland etc).







    Only this photo appears to show a sporran that, in all its construction details, matches those worn by the 79th New York. The ones above have a different construction, say, a metal rim etc. It also shows a military waistbelt plate and a jacket which appears to be a civilian jacket based on the general design of the pre-war 79th NY jacket. However the hat is completely different, and in my opinion this isn't a military man. Is it a 79th NY veteran?

    Last edited by OC Richard; 11th January 15 at 07:32 AM.
    Proud Mountaineer from the Highlands of West Virginia; son of the Revolution and Civil War; first Europeans on the Guyandotte

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  3. #2
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    I'm not a Civil War historian, but my guess would be someone had a Scottish sporran of similar design that ended up being the prototype for the 79th,
    and then, because that was the style that was most commonly seen (having been produced in at least 4 companies worth of volume) it sort of became the
    de facto "sporran shape" for the New York area.

    While not identical, the overall shape of the 79th's cantle (excepting the lower profile) is reminiscent of the Muirhead sporran that the STM had in it's possession at one time (I don't know if they still do).
    The rear construction is similar to the 79th's as well, looking back at the pictures I've seen of a few originals and later reproductions.
    Click image for larger version. 

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    ith:
    artificer Pronunciation: \är-ˈti-fə-sər, ˈär-tə-fə-sər\ : noun : 14th century :a skilled or artistic worker or craftsman
    Artificer Custom Sporrans
    *Home of the Original Kenneth MacLeay Sporran Project & Functional Brass Cantles*

  4. #3
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    Don Troiani, a fine artist who paints Civil War art may be someone who might know something about this. He is also an expert and collector of items and uniforms that were used. Hollywood has used him as a technical consultant on a few films.

    His site has a painting of a soldier from the 79th but he is dressed in trews.
    Last edited by Bluescelt; 11th January 15 at 03:22 PM.

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  6. #4
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    Very interesting about that "Muirhead" sporran. So it's in the USA? What is its provenance?

    It does have a similar shape, though unlike all these others it doesn't have 5 distinct lobes across the bottom edge of the cantle.

    What's strange is that in The Highlanders Of Scotland, vintage photos, and extant vintage sporrans, one sees the same cantle shapes over and over, but this one only shows up in America AFAIK.

    If the shape was a Scottish original, why is there no trace of it in Scotland?

    Every aspect of the uniform of the 79th NY was odd, not just the sporran cantle. The kilts were constructed in an unusual way, the jacket had a unique cut, the Glengarry had only two rows of dicing, and so on. (The jacket isn't a simple cutaway, far from it. The bottom edge around the back is shaped like Inverness skirts, though all of one piece.)

    About Don Troiani, that's exactly what I like about his 79th NY painting, in that it shows the actual uniform the regiment went to war with, not the pre-war Full Dress.

    The 79th group photo above shows a member in Campaign Dress (kepi and trews) flanked by members in Full Dress (Glengarry and kilts). It was the kepi-and-trews uniform that the regiment wore when it went off to war in 1861. The trews were replaced by white canvas trousers, but that's another story!
    Last edited by OC Richard; 11th January 15 at 06:48 PM.
    Proud Mountaineer from the Highlands of West Virginia; son of the Revolution and Civil War; first Europeans on the Guyandotte

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  8. #5
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    Probably a good picture of the basic campaign uniform of the 79th NYSM.
    Photos of 79th POW's after Bull Run held in Castle Pinckney at Charleston, SC.

    Click image for larger version. 

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    Hard to tell but they could be wearing tartan trousers, or just dark blue. Bearded soldier in center with hand on hip appears to wear a glengarry.
    Dave
    Last edited by eagle43172; 12th January 15 at 09:23 AM.
    Dave Chambers

    The Order of the Dandelion, The Auld Crabbits, Clan Cameron, Kilted Scouters, WoodBadge Group, Heart o' Texians

  9. #6
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    Yes exactly so!

    There's a watercolour of the same period showing a wounded 79th NY member in hospital where the tartan of the trews can be seen.

    Yet, in the Castle Pinckney photo you linked to the trousers appear plain.

    There was probably a mix. Then later many were wearing white trousers, then as the original jackets wore out they were replaced by ordinary Union sack coats, by mid-war the 79th looking pretty much like any other Union regiment.
    Proud Mountaineer from the Highlands of West Virginia; son of the Revolution and Civil War; first Europeans on the Guyandotte

  10. #7
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    Quote Originally Posted by OC Richard View Post
    Very interesting about that "Muirhead" sporran. So it's in the USA? What is its provenance?

    It does have a similar shape, though unlike all these others it doesn't have 5 distinct lobes across the bottom edge of the cantle.

    What's strange is that in The Highlanders Of Scotland, vintage photos, and extant vintage sporrans, one sees the same cantle shapes over and over, but this one only shows up in America AFAIK.

    If the shape was a Scottish original, why is there no trace of it in Scotland?

    Every aspect of the uniform of the 79th NY was odd, not just the sporran cantle. The kilts were constructed in an unusual way, the jacket had a unique cut, the Glengarry had only two rows of dicing, and so on. (The jacket isn't a simple cutaway, far from it. The bottom edge around the back is shaped like Inverness skirts, though all of one piece.)
    ...
    @OC Richard, the Muirhead kilt and sporran were/are at the Scottish Tartans Museum in NC,
    having been brought to the US by William Muirhead in 1854.

    As far as the 5 lobes on the cantle and the rest of the 79th's gear being odd- I'd read before that the kilts were made by women in the local garment industry, which is why the construction was unusual. It was made in the local fashion to resemble the traditional look. I'd assume that the sporrans were done the same way. That may extend to the lower profile as well. A simple cost saving "looks KINDA like the Scottish one, and a lot easier to cut" might have ruled the day.

    Having trolled through multiple hundreds of pictures I've saved I can honestly say that I've not seen another 5 lobed leather or metal cantle, but that doesn't mean that there weren't a few out there. It could mean that we simply don't have photographic evidence. It could also mean that the 79th basically just made up the shape out of whole cloth without historic precedent.

    A mystery, to be certain.
    I wonder if a Civil War archive might not exist somewhere with notes on the production of the gear for the 79th saying where and by whome the sporrans were made?
    It might shed a BIT more light.

    ith:
    artificer Pronunciation: \är-ˈti-fə-sər, ˈär-tə-fə-sər\ : noun : 14th century :a skilled or artistic worker or craftsman
    Artificer Custom Sporrans
    *Home of the Original Kenneth MacLeay Sporran Project & Functional Brass Cantles*

  11. #8
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    The timeline of the Muirhead sporran, 1854, makes it a quite possible candidate for the inspiration of the 79th NY's sporrans, the regiment being raised in 1858.

    Thing is, the overall shape of the Muirhead cantle is exactly like the 79th NY cantles. The only difference is the central point of the Muirhead is changed to a lobe on the 79th NY.

    Perhaps the Muirhead was incorrectly copied?

    On closer inspection, one of the photos I posted above appears to also show a central point, and another is unclear.

    So, the Muirhead sporran might have been copied by various New York makers with varying degrees of accuracy.
    Last edited by OC Richard; 15th January 15 at 06:50 PM.
    Proud Mountaineer from the Highlands of West Virginia; son of the Revolution and Civil War; first Europeans on the Guyandotte

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  13. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by OC Richard View Post
    The timeline of the Muirhead sporran, 1854, makes it a quite possible candidate for the inspiration of the 79th NY's sporrans, the regiment being raised in 1858.

    Thing is, the overall shape of the Muirhead cantle is exactly like the 79th NY cantles. The only difference is the central point of the Muirhead is changed to a lobe on the 79th NY.

    Perhaps the Muirhead was incorrectly copied?

    On closer inspection, one of the photos I posted above appears to also show a central point, and another is unclear.

    So, the Muirhead sporran might have been copied by various New York makers with varying degrees of accuracy.
    I think we have to be careful to avoid a "Correlation does not imply causation" situation here. It's easy to connect apparent dots, ignoring the 150 some-odd years in between and all the small situations which could have given the 79th their sporran. According to a paper Matt wrote William Muirhead died in 1911 in Washington D.C., so it's not out of the realm of possibility that his particular single example was the genesis of the 79ths design. That said, I think it's probably at least equally likely that another similar sporran was the originator of the design, none others of which survived the test of time- being rather lumpen and less graceful than many Victorian era sporrans, and lacking a metal cantle which might make holding onto an old moth-eaten family piece more likely.

    Again, not saying it's not the case, certain time frames and locales to sort of meet up, just saying we have to avoid possibly erroneously connecting dots which APPEAR to join up but may not.

    ith:
    artificer Pronunciation: \är-ˈti-fə-sər, ˈär-tə-fə-sər\ : noun : 14th century :a skilled or artistic worker or craftsman
    Artificer Custom Sporrans
    *Home of the Original Kenneth MacLeay Sporran Project & Functional Brass Cantles*

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  15. #10
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    Give the dazzling variety of cantle designs seen in The Highlander Of Scotland, dating to nearly the same time, and given that the same cantle design appears over and over in New York in the 1850s and 1860s, yet not elsewhere, the suggestion presents itself that a single original might have served as the inspiration for a number of New York sporrans, or that New Yorkers were purchasing sporrans from a single maker, perhaps local, perhaps back in Scotland.
    Proud Mountaineer from the Highlands of West Virginia; son of the Revolution and Civil War; first Europeans on the Guyandotte

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