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    George Armstrong Custer: His Personal U.S. Cavalry Officer's Fatigue Coat, Almost Certainly from the Fort Abraham Lincoln Period. This is a standard -style five-button officer's coat, sometimes termed a blouse or jacket, a style introduced in 1872. As was the case with virtually all officers' uniforms it was custom-tailored. The brass buttons are back-marked "E A Armstrong, Detroit", which of course makes sense, as it is highly likely that Custer would have had the jacket made by a Monroe, Michigan tailor. The buttons are correctly sewn with vintage thread are clearly original to the jacket. The tiny holes where shoulder straps were attached are in evidence, but at some point the straps were removed, possibly to sell separately or possibly to be retained by a different family member. The coat is basically in excellent condition, with a few very minor, small moth holes which detract minimally, if at all.

    The blouse is pictured in Ernest L. Reedstrom's Bugles, Banners and War Bonnets, p. 290 (a copy of this book is being sold with the lot), where it is identified as Custer's and credited to the famous Dr. L.A. Frost Collection. It is interesting to note that although various other representative blouses and coats of the mid-1870s are pictured by Reedstrom, this is the only one presented as having belonged to Custer. Our research has failed to disclose any other such uniform in private hands. It's only other appearance at auction was in a 1993 Brian Riba auction (lot 274a), where it was part of a featured collection of Custer artifacts.

    The jacket has a very interesting provenance. It was obtained by Dr. Frost in 1950 from Howard B. Berry, who declared in a notarized statement that it was one of the items which came to him in a trunk labeled "Col. Geo. A. Custer, 7th Cav.". Dr. Frost's subsequent research determined that this was a trunk that had gone missing around the year 1900 following a fire in the Custer family barn. He showed the items he had obtained from Berry to James Calhoun Custer (son of Nevin Custer) who recognized these items and assured Frost that he remembered them well, having been shown them by his father, and that they had indeed belonged to Gen. Custer.

    The jacket appears on a 1973 list by Dr. Frost of items from his collection which were for sale, and a notarized 1993 affidavit from Elizabeth A. Lawrence states that she purchased the coat from Frost at that time (given the coincidence of the dates, we presume that the affidavit was created in order to document the piece as it was being consigned to the Riba auction). Documents supporting the provenance may be found with our website presentation of this lot.

    Extreme rarity (possible uniqueness), display appeal, and excellent provenance combine to make this coat an acquisition worthy of the finest private or institutional collection of Custer relics and artifacts.

    Auction Info

    Auction Dates
    December, 2012
    11th-12th Tuesday-Wednesday
    Bids + Registered Phone Bidders: 3
    Lot Tracking Activity: N/A
    Page Views: 3,688

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