Montreal Engineers, Victorian era Canadian Militia Uniform

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    jholl72
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    Montreal Engineers, Victorian era Canadian Militia Uniform

    Post by jholl72 on Fri Mar 26, 2010 8:21 pm

    Hey guys,
    Picked this up from a guy over at WAF, found at an estate sale. I had to take a chance at it as Canadian Victorian era uniforms are extremely hard to find.
    Now I know nothing about them and finding online references is next to impossible also. So I am looking for some help from the members here who may have or have handled some of these uniforms.
    I do know it is old, but how old and is it an original Militia uniform.
    The Montreal Engineers were raised in 1862 and were disbanded in 1892. As I understand it there was little uniform regulations at the time and several regiments had these braided and knotted style of uniform.
    There is a few things that I have questioned and will point them out here and hopefully we can generate some discussion on these.
    First the jacket itself appears to be a more traditional Canadian uniform that has been altered to conform to what the ME's wanted. There are button holes on the uniform that have been sewn up and the bullion collar covers what appears to be a more traditional dark blue or black collar, the inside of the collar has also had a silky material added.
    The buttons have about three different colours of thread and there are several different colours of thread on repairs about the uniform.
    Could these be period repairs or attempts at conservation.
    I should mention that inside the right shoulder I found what look to be museum inventory numbers, so perhaps this uniform has had some restoration/conservation work done.
    Some of the original stitching has disintegrated and the seems have come loose, so this seems possible.
    The bottom two buttons are US, possibly civil war era buttons, made by Waterbury Button Co. and Waterbury Scovill Mfg. Co.....perhaps to replace missing buttons to put it on display?
    The other front buttons and the four cuff buttons are all Victorian era Montreal Engineers buttons made by Hebbert & Co. London.

    I can provide as many pictures as needed of whatever anyone wants to see.
    The question is..is it original??









































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    Bill
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    Re: Montreal Engineers, Victorian era Canadian Militia Uniform

    Post by Bill on Sat Mar 27, 2010 7:41 am

    Some observations to get discussion started. The lace on the cuff appears to be a different colour than the lace on the breast of the tunic. Added at a later time?
    There doesn't appear to be any rank. The braid on the shoulder is decorative not representative of rank.
    At first glance, bandsman comes to mind

    jholl72
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    Re: Montreal Engineers, Victorian era Canadian Militia Uniform

    Post by jholl72 on Sat Mar 27, 2010 1:56 pm

    Hi Bill,
    You are right the braiding on the cuffs is different than on the main body of the jacket, I hadn't noticed that.
    I don't think it is a bandsman's tunic, though.
    The one thing to remember about militia uniforms is there was very little dress regulations for them. Basically you were told what colour it had to be and the rest was up to the Regiment, basically what could it afford as most militia regiments were privately funded. This is a very broad based statement, I know.
    There was a wide array of colours and distinctly non Canadian military looking uniforms from that period.
    I found a neat period pic that had several different uniforms being worn in it, I can't find it online right now, but when I do I will post it here to illustrate my point.
    There were several Canadian Militia units that had these fancy "Austrian braids and knots" I am attaching a line drawing of the 8th Canadian Hussars Militia period uniform to illustrate one such uniform. Of course it is in different colours.


    I did take the uniform to the Etobicoke show today and had a couple of people look at it and the consensus was it is good. I also had the opportunity to compare it to some other Victorian era uniforms at the show and the materials and construction appear correct for the era. Even with a couple of incorrect buttons, this is a very old, original uniform that would be nearly impossible to find again. So things are looking up for this one. I have it up for discussion at a couple of other forum so will post back here anything else I find out.
    I, of course, am still in the process of researching it also and am still hoping to gather information through discussion here also.


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    Rob
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    Re: Montreal Engineers, Victorian era Canadian Militia Uniform

    Post by Rob on Mon Apr 05, 2010 3:17 am

    Jeff

    Very interesting tunic. To start with, I will tell you what i do know about it. First of all, in terms of it's basic design, it is a British style Hussar tunic, commonly worn throughout the Empire and commonwealth by cavalry units with Husssar traditions (as opposed to Dragoons or Lancers), and certainly late Victorian/Edwardian.

    Secondly, the markings inside give away it's origins, that is, it is definitely of Canadian manufacture.

    It is also definitely manufactured as an 'other ranks' tunic, not an officer's.

    Will have to continue this post later.

    Rob

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    Re: Montreal Engineers, Victorian era Canadian Militia Uniform

    Post by jholl72 on Mon Apr 05, 2010 4:35 pm

    Hi Rob,

    Thanks for the very informative post. Looking forward to the
    continuation....I was hoping to find someone who had experience with
    these.

    What do the markings mean?


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    Rob
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    Re: Montreal Engineers, Victorian era Canadian Militia Uniform

    Post by Rob on Mon Apr 05, 2010 9:59 pm

    jholl72 wrote:Hi Rob,

    Thanks for the very informative post. Looking forward to the
    continuation....I was hoping to find someone who had experience with
    these.

    What do the markings mean?

    No problem, most of the experience I have is with British uniforms of this period, but it is all very similar. At the moment I am out in Kelowna, BC, so I don't have access to my collection or notes, until I get back to Alberta.

    The questions I have relate to the buttons and bullion lace collar, that is are they real?

    The tunic is certainly not standard for an engineer unit, but of course, some militia units, like their British counterparts, were often privately funded, some even pretty much 'gentlemen's clubs' (the London Scottish and their Canadian equivalent, the Toronto Scottish are prime examples of this) where the ability to pay for your own uniform was required, and uniform design rested with those who paid for them. The fact that the cuff buttons are all Montreal Engineers, is certainly encouraging. Scarlet/red faced blue and piped yellow is an unusual colour combination for a hussar unit but is, of course, correct for Royal Engineers. The concept of a non-cavalry unit adopting such a tunic is not completely without precedent, as i will show you when i get back (the example I have is from the British Ayrshire Royal Horse Artillery).

    The bullion lace on the collar could be an indicator of a senior NCO or something similar. Is there any evidence of any badges on the arm (remember the rank insignia wouls usually be worn on the right arm only)

    The markings are sizing information, I believe.

    Will continue later..

    Rob

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    Re: Montreal Engineers, Victorian era Canadian Militia Uniform

    Post by jholl72 on Mon Apr 05, 2010 10:04 pm

    Wow, is all I can say. I have posted thing on several sites and the seller had it posted on WAF and you are the only one who has come forward to share this knowledge. Thanks again.

    It is sounding encouraging so far. There is some evidence of something having been on the right sleeve. I noticed it yesterday for the first time and had no clue what it might have been.
    It is high up on the sleeve though and rectangular in shape, kind of odd for rank insignia..but then again I know nothing about this period.
    I am attaching a couple of pics of the mark on the sleeve.
    I don't see any old stitch holes though.

    I also found a repro uniform, scarlet piped with yellow in a very similar pattern...doesn't prove anything, but it was the only image I could find that had similar style and colour.






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    Re: Montreal Engineers, Victorian era Canadian Militia Uniform

    Post by jholl72 on Mon Apr 05, 2010 10:24 pm

    I had a look at the marks on the right
    sleeve again today under magnification and I can't find any evidence of
    stitch holes or old thread. There is no way to tell from the inside as
    there is no stitch holes through the sleeve lining. There are similar
    marks to this further down the sleeve along a fold line. Perhaps just
    wear from storage?


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    Rob
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    Re: Montreal Engineers, Victorian era Canadian Militia Uniform

    Post by Rob on Tue Apr 06, 2010 11:56 am

    Jeff

    Here are the first of the pictures I promised you of some similar uniforms I own. First up is an example of the Hussar Tunic, just to compare. This is the 1880 pattern, and is the type still current today. My example is from the 3rd County of London Yeomanry (Sharpshooters), and would date from 1908-1914.



    It is basically identical to yours except for the colour. Basic features of the jacket are cord edging all round, including the top and bottom of the collar. The rear seams are decorated with yellow cord with a trefoil at the top and an Austrian knot at the bottom. The cuffs are also decorated with an Austrian knot. The front decorations are referred to as 'loops' (six of these), each loop ending with a 'cap' (the round button) and 'drops' (the two overlapping u-shaped loops). The tunic was usually fastened with brass buttons, although my example has ‘olivets’ (toggles), which was a feature of other ranks jackets of all British non-regular army regiments. It should have collar badges, but they are missing.

    Rob

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    Re: Montreal Engineers, Victorian era Canadian Militia Uniform

    Post by Rob on Tue Apr 06, 2010 11:59 am

    This tunic is a standard Royal Engineers tunic from the same general period. This, or something very similar, is what you would expect a Commonwealth engineer unit to be wearing. It is actually very similar to your tunic in many ways.



    To start with it has nine buttons down the front, which, I think from what I can see, is the same numbeer of buttons yours used to have. The collar is the same as yours under the gold lace (it is faced with dark blue almost black velvet). Cuff decoration is the same except there is no facing on yours. Shoulder straps are identical.

    It looks almost as if your tunic is an engineer tunic that has been converted into a hussar tunic, by remodelling the front, adding the loops, back seam decoration and edging, and removing the facing patches from the cuffs. What do you think?

    Rob

    jholl72
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    Re: Montreal Engineers, Victorian era Canadian Militia Uniform

    Post by jholl72 on Tue Apr 06, 2010 9:01 pm

    I would say you are correct. The material under the bullion is indeed a velvet type material and it could very well be black or it is a very dark blue.
    There was indeed nine button holes on mine. Your engineers uniform, is the cuff facing the same velvety type material? The inside cuffs of mine have a very dark blue non-velvety type material. There appears to be a couple of different colours of thread in the cuffs and they look fairly new. They all pass the burn the test.
    I have attached a couple of pics of the inside of the cuff to show the stitching that concerns me and a couple of some buttons, one that has been resewn for sure and one that looks OK.

    You had also mentioned you had a Artillery uniform that had been converted to look similar to mine. Is it possible to get a couple of pics of that uniform.
    Thanks for your help so far, I am grateful as I paid a good buck for this uniform and want to authenticate it before I can't return it.

    The million dollar question is was this period done for the Montreal Engineers or is a collector done conversion. It certainly looks old and period done, but I guess the only way to know for sure is to get a hold of the 34th Combat Engineers historian.
    Do you have an opinion on whether it is a period done conversion?








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    Re: Montreal Engineers, Victorian era Canadian Militia Uniform

    Post by Rob on Tue Apr 06, 2010 10:14 pm

    jholl72 wrote:I would say you are correct. The material under the bullion is indeed a velvet type material and it could very well be black or it is a very dark blue.
    There was indeed nine button holes on mine. Your engineers uniform, is the cuff facing the same velvety type material? The inside cuffs of mine have a very dark blue non-velvety type material. There appears to be a couple of different colours of thread in the cuffs and they look fairly new. They all pass the burn the test.
    I have attached a couple of pics of the inside of the cuff to show the stitching that concerns me and a couple of some buttons, one that has been resewn for sure and one that looks OK.

    You had also mentioned you had a Artillery uniform that had been converted to look similar to mine. Is it possible to get a couple of pics of that uniform.
    Thanks for your help so far, I am grateful as I paid a good buck for this uniform and want to authenticate it before I can't return it.

    The million dollar question is was this period done for the Montreal Engineers or is a collector done conversion. It certainly looks old and period done, but I guess the only way to know for sure is to get a hold of the 34th Combat Engineers historian.
    Do you have an opinion on whether it is a period done conversion?

    We seem to be getting closer to understanding this fascinating tunic

    Yes, cuffs and collar are faced with velvet on the RE tunic. So I think we can be pretty sure this item started out as a Montreal Engineers OR Tunic. That would be backed up by the velvet facings, nine buttons, cuff buttons etc.

    My opinion on the conversion? Well it's a pretty serious conversion, and certainly not just a 'lookalike' mockup. It even has the correct hooks and eyes to fasten the front, and looks like it was made for real use. It also certainly wasn't done yesterday, the materials used are all absolutely correct, with material being added etc. From what i can see at this distance I would say it was done by the military for whatever reason.

    We could look at it from another research direction. The possibility exists that the tunic was converted for use in another regiment, whether stocks of uniforms from the disbanded Montreal Engrs were converted for a cavalry unit or whether it was done for an individual who moved from one unit to another. So the question is, what Canadian hussar regiments existed in a sensible time frame for this item, and did any of them wear red tunics like that?

    Rob

    PS The artillery tunic I mentioned (actually two of them) is not so much converted, as a custom made hussar tunic to the Ayrshire Battery RHA's own design. I will post them both for you, as they are classic examples of a variation that follows no regulations at all.

    jholl72
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    Re: Montreal Engineers, Victorian era Canadian Militia Uniform

    Post by jholl72 on Tue Apr 06, 2010 10:20 pm

    That's an interesting angle to look at
    the tunic, never thought of that. I will do some more research on the
    Hussar regiments and see what I can find out.
    This has been quite an interesting learning experience for me, so far.


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    Re: Montreal Engineers, Victorian era Canadian Militia Uniform

    Post by Rob on Tue Apr 06, 2010 11:03 pm

    Jeff

    I did a quick bit of research into Canadian hussars during the period 1900-1914, and came up with the following, all of which are NPAM units:

    1st Hussars
    4th Hussars
    6th Duke of Connaught's Royal Canadian Hussars
    7th Hussars
    8th Princess Louise's New Brunswick Hussars
    10th Queen's Own Canadian Hussars
    11th Hussars
    14th King's Canadian Hussars
    17th Duke of York's Royal Canadian Hussars
    21st Alberta Hussars

    There are in addition a few ‘Light Horse’ and ‘Light dragoon’ units that could easily have worn a hussar uniform.

    Here are some pictures I found online that illustrate Canadians wearing the hussar tunic:



    Left is David William Lockerby, dressed in the officer version of the Hussar Tunic as a Major in the 6th Duke of Connaught's Royal Canadian Hussars. On the right is a c1900 picture of the same unit. I don’t know if that is a blue, green or grey uniform.



    Next an illustration of an officer of the 8th Princess Louise's New Brunswick Hussars. These men are dressed in blue though, see http://www.militaryheritage.com/8thhussars.htm



    This is the best one so far. This fellow was called Hubert Duchène, a Boer War veteran and a trooper in the 10th Queen's Own Canadian Hussars. This was a Quebec unit and disbanded by 1913. Can’t tell what colour his tunic is, but, except for the buttons, it looks awfully similar! Check the collar out!



    Finally this picture is of the NWMP 1878 pattern tunic. Although i don't really think it's a mountie item, it's something to keep in mind.

    Rob

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    1907 Dress Regs

    Post by Bill on Wed Apr 07, 2010 8:15 am

    The Canadian Militia Dress Regulations 1907 describe the uniforms for all regiments and corps. All Hussars regiments tunics are described as:
    Blue cloth, edged all around with gold chain gimp (braid or lace). On each side of the breast six loops of gold chain gimp, etc.....
    It also notes that the collars for Hussars are buff, except those for the 6th Hussars, which are white cloth.
    Obviously this does not preclude a Hussar regiment using scarlet, but the dress regs are thorough on differences in dress and no Hussars regiment is noted as having a scarlet tunic.
    Dragoon regiments could wear either scarlet or blue tunics.
    Engineer tunics, either the Royal Canadian Engineers or the Canadian Engineers wore scarlet tunics.
    None of this describes the pre 1907 situation, and the 1907 regs were instituted in part to bring some consistency to the dress of the Canadian militia.
    Found another reference. CATALOGUING MILITARY UNIFORMSby D.Ross and R. Chartrand, New Brunswick Musuem, 1977. In this reference there are several line diagrams of dress uniforms. One, very similar to the uniform in question, is described as an Engineer officer's undress uniform.

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    Re: Montreal Engineers, Victorian era Canadian Militia Uniform

    Post by jholl72 on Fri Apr 30, 2010 4:55 pm

    Hi Bill,
    Don't know how I missed your reply. Is it possible to get a scan or pic of the uniform that you mention? I would love to see it.
    I have written the 34th CER and was referred to the Military Engineers Museum. I have fired off an email and am waiting for a reply. Will update here, if I learn anything new.


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    Re: Montreal Engineers, Victorian era Canadian Militia Uniform

    Post by mk1rceme on Fri Apr 30, 2010 11:36 pm

    Those are some amazing tunics and photos guys! Very nice to see.


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    Diagram of Tunics

    Post by Bill on Sat May 01, 2010 10:27 am

    Hi Jeff, Here is an the image of the page from Cataloguing Military Uniformsby Ross and Chartrand, New Brunswick Museum, 1977. The note on the image indicates the uniforms were blue with black lace. However, the similarity between your tunic and the drawings is very strong.
    [url=]

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