The M1883 to M1904 Campaign Hats

A place for discussion of mounted services uniforms, headgear, footwear and related personal equipment of the horse soldier.
Kelton Oliver
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Re: The M1883 to M1904 Campaign Hats

Post by Kelton Oliver » Tue Nov 11, 2008 6:01 pm

Pat, you're spot on about the advantages and disadvantages of different hat materials. In fact, I grew up on a working cattle ranch and I do know the difference between a higher quality hat and a lower quality one. In fact, I own a lovely silverbelly gray 10x beaver cowboy hat, but I really only wear it for "dress." If I were a working cowboy, I might wear it frequently, but nothing I do today really "needs" a high-quality hat, and I don't want to ruin a $400 hat tramping about in the woods. For my purposes, a hat which can be rolled up is by far the most practical, as I wear it mostly when hiking or shooting and I often stick it into a coat pocket or behind the seat of the truck. For military use, it is possible that wool felt was considered "good enough" for general issue. The fact that troops were authorized one hat a year probably reflects the reality that they were damaged or stained beyond service long before they would have been "worn out" in the normal sense of the word. Certainly, the First Sergeant would have retired your fur felt cowboy hat many years before you did. If a hat is only expected to last a year, it is reasonable to keep the cost down. I still think the crushable wool felt hat would be a lot more practical than ...oh, I dunno...a beret, for example. :lol:

The issue of cost brings up some interesting points. As I pointed out above, I only wear my "good" hat when I'm "dressing up" but a hat isn't a critical piece of equipment for anything I do. On the other hand, I cut no corners on my boots, as I ride a lot and my horsemanship needs all the help it can get. I have a pair of "no-name" dress boots that I wear to "dress up" affairs, but when I actually ride, it's in my Dehner 3-strap boots that were made to order. Some people have commented that they would be afraid of damaging or wearing out the expensive boots, and I understand the point -- but I "feel" the horse through the boots and sometimes that feel is what keeps me above rather than below the horse. From my perspective, it makes no sense to spend $400 for a hat that I may run over with a truck because I don't need the hat anyway. Conversely, it makes no sense to ride in "second-best" boots because failure to maintain the correct orientation relative to the ground can result in injury. Believe me...I know!

All of which is sort of a long way of saying that "back in the day," the Army may have paid more attention to the quality of hats because it was a working item. Today, the Army spends a lot of money and effort on the helmet but everything else is designed to be pretty much disposable. Nobody really "needs" a beret and the quality control of the item reflects it.

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Post by Pat Holscher » Wed Nov 12, 2008 7:24 am

Kelton Oliver wrote:
The issue of cost brings up some interesting points. As I pointed out above, I only wear my "good" hat when I'm "dressing up" but a hat isn't a critical piece of equipment for anything I do. On the other hand, I cut no corners on my boots, as I ride a lot and my horsemanship needs all the help it can get. I have a pair of "no-name" dress boots that I wear to "dress up" affairs, but when I actually ride, it's in my Dehner 3-strap boots that were made to order. Some people have commented that they would be afraid of damaging or wearing out the expensive boots, and I understand the point -- but I "feel" the horse through the boots and sometimes that feel is what keeps me above rather than below the horse. From my perspective, it makes no sense to spend $400 for a hat that I may run over with a truck because I don't need the hat anyway. Conversely, it makes no sense to ride in "second-best" boots because failure to maintain the correct orientation relative to the ground can result in injury. Believe me...I know!
Good boots really do make a difference riding, but that's another area where people have to be experienced to be convinced. If you tell somebody who doesn't ride that, or if you tell a novice rider that, they'll often look at you like you have two heads. Indeed, more than once I've been asked about boots for riding, and knew right away that my explanations were never going to be listened to, as what the questioner really wanted to know was where to get the cheapest boots possible. Or, sometimes, people will just vaguely tell you what sort of boot they bought, without any real understanding as to what it was or why its designed the way it is.
Kelton Oliver wrote: All of which is sort of a long way of saying that "back in the day," the Army may have paid more attention to the quality of hats because it was a working item. Today, the Army spends a lot of money and effort on the helmet but everything else is designed to be pretty much disposable. Nobody really "needs" a beret and the quality control of the item reflects it.
Berets must have had some original practical purpose, but I don't know what it is. They seem to have had their origins in European peasant caps, and they may have simply been the cheapest option available for some degree of warmth. Other than that, they really don't do much, although they've certainly spread to near universal use. I'd guess, but don't know, that for wooded or semi wooded country, they might have made sense. It's amazing how universal their use has become. Recent photos from the Congo show Congolese rebels wearing a uniform resembling the US woodlands BDU (with their leader sporting the new U.S ACU uniform) and wearing green berets. Whatever their merits (and I really don't know what they are), I wish they hadn't spread into US use, as they're not an item that is a traditional US one, and they have a lot of demerits.

As an aside, I recently saw a photo of Canadian troops very early in WWI, equipped with Ross rifles, and wearing super sized berets. I thought that at that time only the French mountain troops wore them, but apparently at least some other use occurred to some degree.
Pat

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Post by malas » Thu Jan 22, 2009 8:20 am

What do you consider a reasionable price for the 1883 hats. I see them at shows running from 600 - 1300 depending on condition and if its an enlisted or officers.

John

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Post by George Clark » Mon Feb 02, 2009 3:27 pm

John, The price range you quoted 600-1300 depending on condition is about right. The earlier issued 1883 screen vent models would be at the high end. Those early hats issued in black could run higher than the 1300.
George.

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