Original U.S. Indian Wars M1878 Canteen with Leather Shoulder Strap - Stamped “U.S.”
Original Item: Only One Available. US M1878 Canteen with a tan canvas cover with a very clear U.S. stencil on the front, in very good condition. There are no other markings that we can find, either on the canteen/cover and sling.
The canteen is complete with its original cork stopper secured to the neck of the canteen by a ring. The cork itself is complete but has shrunk due to age. It also has the proper pattern leather shoulder strap, of the later adjustable style in good condition, but has dried out and some cracks are present in the finish, which is expected.
There is some denting on the body, and the cover has the expected water stains and wear to the canvas. A great chance to pick up a good example of this iconic canteen.
Prior to 1858 canteens were made of wood or tin and came in a variety of forms and sizes. The two most prominent being the "barrel-type" made of wood with side slats like a barrel, and the "cheesebox-type" made of wood with a single wrap around side. Tin water bottles, similar to that used by the British Army, were also used, particularly towards the end of the 18th century.
In 1858, a new standardized canteen was authorized and the Philadelphia Quartermaster Depot contracted with Albert Dorft of Philadelphia to produce the new item. The canteen was made of tinned iron, covered in sky-blue wool kersey, with a white linen shoulder sling. Coinciding with the start of the Civil War (April 1861), an improved version of the canteen was introduced. Known as the "bull's-eye" canteen, it had concentric circles embossed in the sides to add additional strength. Both patterns were produced for the Army throughout the war.
Some Civil War period canteens will have contractor information stamped into the side of the spout. In 1872 the pattern 1858 canteen was improved with a brass stopper chain attached to a brass wire loop around the neck replacing the original iron chain.
The Army experimented with brace systems in 1872 and 1874. Although the system itself was a failure, the canteen for the 1874 Palmer Brace System in modified form continued in use. The original 1874 canteen (type 1) was nothing more than an existing Civil War period canteen with a double wool cover in brown or sky-blue, a web sling with a brass Chambers buckle, and the 1872 modification to the stopper chain. The 1874 canteen (type 2), introduced about 1876, had a brown cotton canvas cover and the lower sling guide was removed to allow the cover to fit better. Variations to the 1874 canteen include leather welts in the seam of the cover, and the bottom sling guide not being removed.
The Infantry Equipment Board of 1878 further modified the pattern 1858 canteen by removal of the bottom sling guide and the addition of triangular iron wire loops to the upper guides. The body of the canteen was recovered in a layer of Petersham cloth for insulation, with an outer cover of drab cotton canvas.
A new shoulder sling was introduced made of black leather one-inch wide by 56 inches in length. Each end of the sling was doubled back through the loop of a two-inch long brass wire hook and a leather keeper. It was then secured by a small brass hopin fastened to the end that was secured through one of five holes spaced evenly near each end of the sling. The sling was then attached by the large brass hooks to the triangular loops of the canteen. This pattern of canteen would continue in use well into the 20th century. The principal manufacturer was: Rock Island Arsenal.
Stocks of Civil War period canteens were exhausted by the end of the Spanish-American War and the bodies for 1878 canteens were being newly manufactured. In 1902, a modification was made to the canteen body by the addition of a convex depression on the backside so that it would fit more snuggly against the wearer. In addition the leather canteen sling was eliminated and the haversack sling became the universal pattern sling for both the canteen and the haversack.
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