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Old 27th February 2011, 09:58 PM   #1
pbleed
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Default Scale armor

Dear Friends,
With a team of students I am researching a scale armor "mantle" in the collection of the Nebraska State Historical Society. This armor has a history that goes back to 1870, but is composed of iron scales that are at least very similar to the archaeological scales from New Mexico described by LaRocca in Gladius in 1990. LaRocca made a case in that paper that they reflect an early phase of the Spanaish entrada into North America. The Nebraska armor retains it cloth base.
In addition to the possibility that it is early Spanish in origin, I am trying to evalaute the possibility that this armor was an element of either theatrical or Fraternal costumery that somehow got to the frontier.
And so my request - plea - for help
1. I will welcome references to SCALE (not mail or brigantine) armor in the New World.
2. Is there available literature on pre-Civil War (US, that is) armor costumry. We have been helped to find a fair amount of late 19th century material (Oh the Walkaries!), but I would like to know was was being worn in opera and the lodges before 1870.

I will welcome any help, guidance or advice.

Peter Bleed
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Old 2nd March 2011, 02:04 AM   #2
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Default mebbe a picture would help

Respected Friends,
There have been no takers on this challenge. May I try ti attach a picture. What is this and how it it get to the Plains?
Peter
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Old 2nd March 2011, 02:22 AM   #3
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An image of the reverse of the mantle and a closeup of both sides of a detached scale would be very helpful.

Ward
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Old 2nd March 2011, 07:10 PM   #4
A Senefelder
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I agree with Ward, pics of the back would be of assistance. If this is a theatrical piece it is of high quality. The scales have been curved to i'm guessing about 3-4 degrees which is consistant with some later historical examples i've seen ( the one that comes to mind is a 17th century Polish scale cuirass in a small art museum in Baltimore ). This curvature is to increase the strength of the scales via introducing the geometry of the curve, a step that would have been uneccessary for a theatrical piece as play goers would never have noticed nor would likely have cared.

The Spanish were the most heavily armoured Europeans in the Americas so its certainly not out of the realm of possibility for a Spanish attributation if in fact the piece is legitimate. A friend of my fathers in New Mexico was an avid collector of colonial Spanish arms and armour. He had a wide range of contacts in the southwest and aquired most of his pieces from the individuals who found them. If I recall correctly he had portions of what he believed was a scale horse barding found in the southwest as part of his collection. I will ask my father if my recollection of this is correct.
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Old 4th March 2011, 12:25 AM   #5
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Default The back and a detail

Friends,
Thank you very much for the replies and the encouragement. I will attach a "rear view" of the mantle. It shows the 'inside' of the armor and the fabric that is the core of the armor. The stitches you see run from image left to right and they attach tapes to which are rivetted the ferrous scales. There MAY have been another layer of cloth on this surface, but if it was ever present it is not represented only by the remant in what you see at the upper right side.
Thank you for looking and please forgive me if Ido not knowing how to orient you on this object.
Peter
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Old 4th March 2011, 12:36 AM   #6
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Default scale attachment

Assuming you are still willing to look deeper into this armor...
Let let me show you the under side of the scales of this armor. This image is taken from the 'front' of the armor. The scales are lifted up. You can see the fabric base. Also you see see how each scale isdouble rivetted to a doulbe folded tape of herring bone twill.
Please also note that there is a slot-headed screw - applied THRU the exposed row of scales - that attaches a leather strap.
I am struck at how regular th scales are. What do you see?
Peter
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Old 4th March 2011, 01:06 AM   #7
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Based on the method of construction, including the curving of the scales themselves, as well as the condition I would be inclined to think it possible that this piece is original colonial armour of the 16th or 17th century. It is built as a piece of period armour would be built ( as I would and have built armour including work with scales ) rather than a theater prop. The condition of the fabric while very good doesn't disqualify it as original, there are examples of a variety of textile armour, or at least armour related ( liners, or outter fabric shells for things like brigandine ) in as good or better condition than this piece. You said the history dates back to the 1870's. If its not prying how much of the provenance can you reveal?
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Old 4th March 2011, 02:56 AM   #8
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Default provenance

Dear Mr. Senefelder,
Thanks for yu comments. This armor was the property of a frontier Army staff office, John Gregory Bourke. He had got it in about 1870 in Arizona, but it came with a story of having been 'found' in west Texas.
What do you think about the slotted screw?
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Old 4th March 2011, 03:04 PM   #9
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The Romans were using screws, they're not a new investion but i'll admit that for this particualr application its " unexpected ". It appears based on the corrosion to have some age to it as it is similar to the material around it. The use of leather as a " washer " would make sense in a period context for this use, one couldn't run down to the hardware store and buy a box of number 8 steel washers, you would have had to punch a hole in a piece of steel, grind or file back the flash around the hole and then cut out a small square of circle around it to make a washer from metal, leathe would have been much less of a head ache. My only guess as to why there is a screw there instead of two rivets like the plates around it is A) this scale is overlapped by the scales on either side of it so there wasn't enough room for two rivets or B) this is a repair with some age to it. Are there any more screws you've located on this piece? How was it fastened closed?
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Old 9th March 2011, 01:57 AM   #10
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Default the nut

To breathe life into this discussion, please allow me to attach an image of the brass nut on this inside of the scale armor. I am not sure how old it may be, but I doubt that it is Roman.
Peter
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Old 9th March 2011, 02:52 AM   #11
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The threaded end of the screw is very rough as if its been cut away with a chisel ( maybe to shorten it for use ). The notch in the brass washer closest to the lens appears to have been perhaps filed in ( the edges seem to show a slightly rough bevel ).

I appologize if I was unclear, I did not intend to infere that this piece is Roman, only that screws have been around for quite a along time so would have been avaliable in the 16/17th century if that is in fact how old this piece is.

Is there any evidence of how this would have been closed? If it is indeed some sort of scale standard or if you prefer bishops mantle there should be some method of closing the two sides together.
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Old 14th March 2011, 01:15 PM   #12
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Peter,

Alan directed me to this thread, and I must say thanks very much. What a fascinating piece. Based on the construction details of the piece I'm inclined to his opinion that it is a Spanish armour survival, though I wouldn't hold myself forth as any sort of expert.

That said, I have a number of questions about the piece which I hope you can answer, some of which may shed some further light:

The Fabric Substrate

It appears from the pictures to be a fairly heavy tabby-woven material. That said:

- Can you tell if it is linen, cotton, or hemp?
- In your third picture with the scales turned up it appears to be set on the bias to the lines the tape and scales are sewn on. Is that correct?
- In the same photo the edge of the fabric is shown. Is it a selvedge edge, or is it bound?
- If bound, what stitch was used?

The Tape

- Can you tell if it is linen, cotton, or hemp?
- How wide is the tape before folding?
- Am I correct in thinking that the fold in the tape is at the top edge where it is sewn down?
- In the picture of the nut is the seam shown below the nut the other side of the seam holding the tape down?
- Can you tell what kind of thread was used - Linen or cotton?
- What stitch was used?
- How long are the stitches?

The Lining

- Can you tell if it is linen, cotton, hemp, or silk (silk linings in fabric armours are known)?
- Is the scrap of fabric under the nut a piece of the lining?
- If yes, can you tell what the weave looks like a twill to me. Is that correct, or is it just an artifact of the angle of the shot?

The Top

- There seems to be a strip of tape at the top edge of the garment. It appears to be over the top row of scales' rivets. Is that correct?
- If so, how is it secured to the substrate, lining, and face of the scales?

Thanks very much!
Nicholas Cioran
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Old 14th March 2011, 04:37 PM   #13
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Cole, from the look of the pic the edging around the neck line looks as if it may be thin leather. The 17th century Polish scale cuirass i've seen in the Baltimore museum was done in that manner and looked similar to what I can see in the picture. Hopefully Peter can shed some light on this.
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Old 14th March 2011, 09:00 PM   #14
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Thanks Allan!

Is it in the Walter's Collection? I wouldn't mind tracking that one down either.

Cole
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Old 15th March 2011, 12:59 PM   #15
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Cole you'll have to forgive me, it was about 20 years ago ( my sisters graduation from college where Mr. Rogers was the commencement speaker ) so I do not recall the name of the gallery. It was a nice little art gallery in Baltimore and thier collection of arms and armour at that time was in thier basement which at that time was set up like a castle complete with stonework and stone spiral staircase to access it IIRC.
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Old 16th March 2011, 02:34 AM   #16
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Default responses to Cole's questions

Dear Friends,
cole and I had a couple of off line exchanges. Perhaps some on the forum will find them of interest
Thanks very much your message. I appreciate that Alan Senenfelder was kind enough to pass it along to you. Indeed, thanks to the good offices of Madelein Roberg, we have a very good analysis of the fibers and fabrics of the scale armor we are studying.
For now, let me pass along some summary information
1. Your observations on the structure of the armor are very good. We will present a summary of the structure in our final report of the armor.
2. The Fabric Substrate
What you call the " The Fabric Substrate " is composed of irregular, undyed "bast fiber"
3. The "Tape"
The tape is twill woven cotton with a blue dyed warp element. In use, this tape was doubled and the scales are attached by rivets . My colleague Doug Scott found a reference to what seems to be very similar tape used as "lace" on the British army uniforms of "other ranks" of War of 1812.
The main thread used to attach the riveted tapes to the "fabric substrate" is thick, doubled bast fiber
4 The fabric that you call the "lining" is a bit problematical. It may indeed, have been a lining that reached entirely across the face opposite of the scale.
It is twill-woven cotton
5. The "Top"
The fabric along the front neckline of the armor is undyed bast fiber.
6. Now, let me ask you to look once again at the brass spanner nuts that hold the slot-headed screws at either side of the armor. Senenfeld sees that as potentially rather old. And he may be right, but I see it as a well machined bit of hardware. I could see it as very 19th century. I am also not finding very much literature on the chronology of nuts and bolts. Can you share any expertise?
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Old 16th March 2011, 01:48 PM   #17
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Peter, the timing of your posting this has been immaculate. Cole will be begining construction on a scale garment fairly soon after he picks up the scales i've made for him and the opportunity to view the construction of this piece will be of great help i'm sure.
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Old 17th March 2011, 01:30 PM   #18
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Allan,

I couldn't agree more, thanks very much to both you and Peter!

Cole
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Old 24th March 2011, 07:49 PM   #19
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I HAD A COUPLE OF FRIENDS WHO MAKE AND COLLECT ARMOR TAKE A LOOK AS I KNOW NOTHING ABOUT ARMOR. UNFORTUNATELY NEITHER ONE IS A MEMBER SO COULD NOT POST.
THEY SAID IT APPEARED SIMILAR TO THE POLISH WINGED HORSEMAN ARMOR PERHAPS A MANTLE TO COVER THE REGION OF THE SHOULDER. CIRCA 1650 TO 1700. SO YOU MIGHT SEARCH THE FORUM AS THIS WAS DISCUSSED IN THE PAST AND GOOGLE IT. AT LEAST IT GIVES YOU A DIRECTION IN WHICH TO SEARCH. THEY BOTH AGREED IT WAS NOT MADE FOR THEATRICAL OR LODGE USE BUT AUTHENTIC ARMOR THAT WAS WELL AND PROPERLY MADE.
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Old 8th May 2011, 11:38 PM   #20
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Thumbs up A suggestion from a 'lurker"

Received from Josh:

I wanted to register in order to post a bit of information regarding a recent topic that has been posted on your board, if nobody else has yet posted it.

I believe that the piece of scale armour in the photos there might be a fragment of the armour of a Comanche war chief active in the 19th century called "Iron Jacket."

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Iron_Jacket

Note the line that reads: "The Rangers broke up his coat of mail and kept the shingles for souvenirs."
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Old 9th May 2011, 03:24 PM   #21
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It always makes me smile when whispers from the 'lurking hordes' come in
Here is distinct evidence that there is sound knowledge among them, and how unfortunate it is that typically they do not post. In this case I am grateful that an attempt to share information was made, even through 'the back door', so thank you Josh, wherever you are.

The note on 'Iron Shirt' is extremely well placed, and there are considerations that this could indeed be an element of armor worn by possibly a warrior of one of the tribes in the region it was found. The well known tales of 'Chief Iron Shirt' have been around for some time, but there are of course a number of versions, most of them envisioning him wearing the cliche' conquistador breastplate or cuirass. However, this account is remarkably accurate in detail and reveals far more about the true nature of these old Spanish items which remained with some generations of these tribes for many years.
Native American warriors are known to have worn various kinds of defensive armor mostly of rawhide in some degree, and used of course rawhide shields, but there are considerably limited instances of use of this kind of armor. In most cases it would seem these were likely traded from Comanchero traders in regions of New Mexico and West Texas from old Spanish resources. This particular mantle, though the 'jury is still out' appears to be at least of early Spanish components, and there is a distinct possibility of being worn by a warrior.

Chief Iron Shirt incidentally was apparantly brought down with a high caliber rifle where the shot entered from his side circumventing the armor which had brought him such acclaim.
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Old 16th May 2011, 02:04 AM   #22
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Without pretending to know anything about this type of armor, I will just present the following excerpt from the Metropolitan Museum of Art publication.
On a purely observational level, the armor in question looks ...old.
You may wan to contact the Met A&A curatorial staff, perhaps they will help you in further research. If this piece is indeed authentic Spanish scale armor from the 1500s-1600s, it is indeed unique and important.
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Old 16th May 2011, 02:21 AM   #23
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Interestingly, the ruler in the first pic (in the second post) seems to indicate a size similar to if not congruent with the measurement (2.5x4 cm) provided in the Met's catalog.
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Old 17th May 2011, 06:36 PM   #24
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Quote:
Originally Posted by laEspadaAncha
Interestingly, the ruler in the first pic (in the second post) seems to indicate a size similar to if not congruent with the measurement (2.5x4 cm) provided in the Met's catalog.



Hi Chris,
You definitely have the eagle eye thing goin on there! This really is compelling in comparing these shield type plates as having apparantly been in use in the Spanish colonial sphere from much earlier period. There have been a number of early armour elements found in several locations beyond this as well. I believe the plates found in New Mexico were in northern regions, and as this mantle was discovered in west Texas it certainly would suggest that these were around. It is interesting that the items in the LaRocca article were disconnected pieces found in a grouping in context, while this mantle was discovered intact.
Definitely a great connection!

All the best,
Jim
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Old 17th May 2011, 07:05 PM   #25
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The shaping of the Met scales and those in the mantle are awefully similar. The edges along the top and down the sides to the point where the plates begin to taper in exhibit the same slight rolled/raised edge on both sets of plates and slight 3-5 degree curvature. Constructionally, based of course purely on looking at photos they seem nearly identicle.
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Old 18th May 2011, 01:33 AM   #26
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I have followed this thread and the subject mantle for quite some time, and read through LaRocca & Rogers (1999) which clearly notes that the metal shield like scales discovered in New Mexico must be from European manufacture, and the article suggests that these seem to be evidence that this style of overlapping scales must have existed in remote areas of Europe far longer than presumed. While there are no specific records of this type of armor extant in inventories or other documentation, it is important to consider that the term for body armour, 'cota de malle' was far more broadly applied than commonly realized. The term has been known to have been used somewhat colloquially with respect to various forms from mail of chain link to cuera (leather jackets) and to varied forms of brigandine.

It is also known than the participants in the developing colonization in these regions in the New World were responsible for furnishing thier own arms and armour, and all manner of these were present from reasonably new to old or surplus items, as well as it would seem antiquated styles from remote regions obviously depending on circumstances of the individual. It does not seem unreasonable to think that at some point in these colonial times a number of these scaled armors may have arrived in New Mexico. Clearly there must have been a very small number, as the estimated number of extant pieces of these small shields reach only about 500, with only abour 200 that have been examined, the others unaccounted for. As has been noted, the shields in the article (op.cit. Rogers & LaRocca, 1999) are remarkably similar, if not the same as those seen on the 'mantle' in discussion.

The area in New Mexico where these where found, and the area where the mantle was found are actually not remarkably distant geographically, and it does not seem unreasonably to think that diffusion of these armor shields as sundry items via American Indian tribes and/or Comanchero traders in these regions would be unlikely. What is remarkable is that these items, with one grouping found in New Mexico as scattered pieces, and an entire 'Bishops Mantle' type body armour found in Texas constructed of these same, most unusual scales present an almost stunning coincidence.

It is unfortunate that we do not have the body armor worn by Chief Iron Shirt in 1858, and clearly in the regions of the Comanche and Plains Apache, as it might reveal the nature of the scaled armour apparantly used. In all other accounts I have ever seen, reference to his armor only decribes it as 'old Spanish armour', without further detail.

If it was similar to the mantle of our discussion, which seems to be fashioned by an artisan somewhat skilled in the fashioning of this type armour..would this suggest that perhaps a small number of these types of armour were fashioned by the Spanish reusing the old components of antiquated armour?
If this was the case, could these have been acquired by warriors of local tribes, and the one in Texas found intact, while the other (s) in New Mexico had been lost and come apart?

While considering this as a possibility, we still have not come up with further examples of 19th century fraternal or theatrical costumes and regalia. It would be interesting to see how these items would compare to known styles and thier construction. What remains a puzzle however is, these shields seem to be authentically European and of early period...in this case, how would they end up in such costume type wear, and both in rare and unusual archaeological circumstances?

All best regards,
Jim
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Old 19th May 2011, 01:50 AM   #27
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Default posters on the Bourke armor

Dear Friends,
The press of other chores has kept me from responding to the addtions to this thread. I do thank you all.
Please let me also call your attention to a pair of posters on the scale mantle that were developed by my student colleagues. They present descriptive background and a bit of problem orientation to our investigaion of the mantle.
The posters are down at the bottom on my page (itself now dated).
http://www.unl.edu/anthro/afaculty/bleed.shtml
I hope you will find it of interest.
Again, than you for the interesting insights.
Peter
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