American Military Insignia, 1800-1851

American Military Insignia, 1800-1851

American Military Insignia, 1800-1851

American Military Insignia, 1800-1851

Excerpt

This catalog is a descriptive and interpretive listing of the insignia of the Army of the United States--other than buttons, epaulets, and horse furniture--in the National Collections that were prescribed or worn during the period 1800-1851. The subject of early American military buttons has been covered by L. F. Emilio in The Emilio Collection of Military Buttons (Salem, Massachusetts: Essex Institute, 1911), W. L. Calver and R. P. Bolton in History Written with Pick and Shovel (New York: New York Historical Society, 1950), and David F. Johnson in Uniform Buttons, American Armed Forces, 1784-1948. (Watkins Glen, New York: Century House, 1948, 2 vols.). For epaulets, see Mendel L. Peterson, American Army Epaulets, 1814-1872, Military Collector and Historian (March 1961, vol. 3, no. 1, pp. 1-14).

Most of the specimens described here are from the huge W. Stokes Kirk Collection acquired in 1959, supplemented by the War Department Collection and the numerous biographical collections of the United States National Museum; in addition, a few insignia in the collections of J. Duncan Campbell and others are included.

The unique W. Stokes Kirk Collection, unmatched in scope, volume, and rarity, is worthy of special note. It was begun in 1878 by W. Stokes Kirk, Sr., of Philadelphia, a dealer in U.S. Government surplus. Struck by the beautiful design and delicate art work in some of the early insignia, Mr. Kirk put aside all old and unusual devices for his personal collection. As his business expanded, so did his interest in military rarities and curios. After each bulk purchase from government sources, he would have all the odd and unusual items sorted out for his examination. The best of such items went into his personal collection, which included rare firearms, powder flasks, insignia, epaulets, military caps, and the like. W. Stokes Kirk, Jr., who succeeded his father and expanded the business nationally until it became almost as well known as Bannerman's Military Store in New York City, maintained and enlarged the collection. After his death, in 1946, the collection was continued by his widow, Mrs. Linnie A. Kirk Mosler. Items in this catalog from the W. Stokes Kirk Collection are indicated by the letters "S-K" in parentheses following the United States National Museum number.

Although this catalog is, in more than one sense, a developmental history of American military insignia, it is not, and is not intended to be, a definitive study. The picture is far too incomplete. Whereas the record of Regular Army devices after 1821 is fairly clear--despite the fact that the uniform regulations continued sometimes to use the tantalizing phrase "according to pattern"--there remain serious gaps in the pre-1821 period when regulations were exceedingly vague and fragmentary at best . . .

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