Silver-faced Dragoon bit

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Joseph Sullivan
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Friends:

As I continue to sort through my collection to separate the stuff I am selling, that I am placing with the Haley Library and the small amount I am keeping, interesting surprises pop up. The latest is with a bridle from the 1850s that I feel confident is a private purchase either by a Dragoon officer or a Militia officer -- but more likely Dragoon (the late Tom Smith saw the bridle and concurred). It has one of the variants of Dragoon bit, horseshoe-shaped buckles, and substantial remains of yellow coloring on the brow-band and on leather circles under the big, 1850s style rosettes (the rosettes are identical to a pair I have seen on a known Dragoon officer's bridle).

The big surprise is the bit. I had always thought it had traces of its original brass facing. However, as I am going to offer it for sale, I took a jewelers rouge cloth to a couple of spots to be sure.Turns out that the facing was not brass, but silver. Can't say if it is sterling or not of course, but it is certainly silver, applied like brass facing would have been -- say the thickness of thin aluminum foil, not plating.

Has anyone else seen silver facing on officer's gear?

The buckles are NOT faced. They are black- japanned wire in horseshoe shape.


Joe
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It should be silver if it was used by a Dragoon. Even though they had long lost that part of their function, Dragoons were, technically, mounted Infantry, There is actually no period reference that tells up what color the buttons and sword mounts were for War of 1812 Dragoons but the little surviving evidence all points to silver. I don't know when, or if this changed at a later date... the orange facings of the Mexican War period were not used with silver buttons. There were also Militia Dragoons - I know RI had a troop, the commanding officer's saber is still extant and it is finished in silver wash.

The plating you are talking about is probably "close plating" or Sheffield Plating, a technique rarely done in America as only a small number of silversmiths knew how it was done. Most likely, it was imported from Britain.
Joseph Sullivan
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Joe:

Now that you mention it, the silver probably IS Sheffield -- we have some old Sheffield-plated serving dishes, and the look is similar - heavy stuff not like electroplating.

I'll try to send pix for some helpful person to post, but in the meantime, do you find an flaws in my attribution of Dragoon officer's private purchase; with the real irresolvable uncertainty being whether Federal or militia:

Once yellow brow band;
Large mid-19th century rosettes, smooth and sort of hemispheric;
Horseshoe-shaped black-japanned buckles;
Dragoon-style bit with the heavy silver plating.

Cheers!
Joe
JV Puleo
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I don't know a thing about bits so I can't address that issue but from a technological point of view, it likely fits in the period between 1800 and 1840. I'm not sure when electroplating silver became widespread but it rapidly displaced Sheffield plate, at least for anything that was not going to see a lot of wear (which may be an issue with a bit). Aside from that, I see no flaw in your logic except that perhaps any civilian might have the same thing.
Joseph Sullivan
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Yes, I see your point, but the civilian wold be unlikely to have a yellow-painted brow band and backing pieces for the rosettes. It has an overall military aspect, and the late Tom Smith, from whom I got it 20 years or so ago, thought it was Dragoons.

I guess that Old Sheffield is to silver what Ormalou is to gold.
Joe
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