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Old 18th June 2009, 11:46 PM   #1
Jim McDougall
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Default Armour in the Wild West

While we are familiar with the study of medieval armour, it is interesting to find that perhaps armour was not so resoundingly obsolete with the advent of firearms after all. It has always seemed interesting that the means of proofing armour was to fire bullets at it, and the dent was considered proof it was soundly made and acceptable....hence the term 'bulletproof'.
Clearly the reduction of the armour components was not entirely due to the use of firearms, but more for flexibility in movement as methods of combat changed.
As early as 1538, Negroli was commissioned to create a bulletproof vest for Francesco Maria Della Revere.

As we look into the history of the 'wild west' , we find that this term extended far down under as well, into 1880's Australia, and the outlaw gang of Ned Kelly, who are renowned for the phenomenon of wearing crudely fabricated suits of armour in a bizarre anachronistic fashion.
These incredibly heavy suits covered the torso, and were made of old plough metal weighing an incredibly uncomfortable 94 pounds. They were worn under full length covercoats and the police were astounded by the invulnerability of these men to gunfire until a helmet was seen being worn, believed only by Kelly.

This brought to mind the question of bulletproof vests in the west, were they actually worn? We know that during the Civil War, some of the Union troops did purchase steel breastplates, though as uncomfortable as they were , most were abandoned.

Certainly heavy steel was impractical for defensive wear, as painfully discovered by the Kelly gang, when their uncovered limbs were shot full of wounds, and they could not move fast enough to make a gainful escape. It is said that armour, as we know not limited to steel, is also fabricated of various kinds of cloth, even silk. It is said that silk can in fact either stop or impede the travel of bullets, especially the lower velocity black powder types.

In Joseon Dynasty Korea, during the U.S. expedition of 1871, the forces were puzzled at the fact that the Koreans seemed unaffected by gunfire, finding that they were apparantly wearing heavily folded cotton vests of as many as 30 folds. One unfortunate result for these bulletproof soldiers was that they were not impervious to the hot metal of cannon shell fragments, actually igniting some of them. One of these bulletproof vests was apparantly displayed until fairly recent times in the Smithsonian, now having returned to Korea.

I just thought these were interesting notes in the days pre-Kevlar, and am wondering if there are accounts of bulletproof protection, whether steel or fabric, having been used in the west by gunfighters or others.
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Old 19th June 2009, 03:27 AM   #2
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Hello Jim,

I don't really have anything meaningful to add to the subject, besides a wonder at the development of body armour into modern times, but I just want to say thank you for always bringing such interesting subjects of conversation You encourage us to delve deep into the study of arms and armour and consider everything.

Thank you for that, and please keep it up my friend!

Warmest regards,
Emanuel
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Old 19th June 2009, 04:12 AM   #3
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Default Old West Vest

Cole Younger of the James Younger Gang wore a heavy salt brine layered leather vest. It would stop a lot of the cap and ball revolver rounds of the day as well as buckshot at a little farther out. It would not stop heavier rifle rounds.

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Old 19th June 2009, 05:28 AM   #4
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Excellent subject matter indeed, Jim. I was unaware of Union forces being offered body armor. Fascinating information. I'm not surprised that it was considered (Emperor Napolean III's cuarassiers were still wearing them into the mid-19th century) and rejected (many of the Union soldiers wouldn't even carry their M1860 issued swords, deeming them useless in battle. That's why many of these swords are in such good shape). Let us not forget the Native American bone breast plates worn by chiefs that were often adorned with British gorgets from a century before. Although not common, they were worn to deflect arrows, spears and bullets from afar. I remember reading about the Egyptian Khedieve (King) and his troops known as the "Iron Men", who still wore breastplates into the late-19th century.
Betcha G. Custer would have given his hair for a good breastplate at the Big Horn.
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Old 19th June 2009, 05:38 AM   #5
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Hi Jim,

I don't have any good armor anecdotes to add. Still, I keep thinking about the Ghost Dance shirts of the Lakota, that were supposed to stop bullets and did not, and of the scarves worn by the old capoeiristas, which didn't stop bullets, but did keep their opponents straight razors from slitting their throats.

F
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Old 19th June 2009, 05:49 AM   #6
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http://books.google.com/books?id=kK2...esult&resnum=1
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Old 19th June 2009, 05:51 AM   #7
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Thank you so much guys!
I really appreciate the kind words, and I do tend to wander off on esoterica in arms and you guys always come up with great items of information that add to learning on them.
Emanuel, you may not have material at the moment...but if I know you, you soon will have you seem to have a way to find things and add unique perspective, thank you!
BJ, thanks for the info on the Youngers...never thought of brine soaked leather...though leather was of course well known back into the Spanish colonial days the Southwest....the Soldados de Cuero (leatherjackets) wore these to stop Apache arrows.
Mark, I hadnt heard of the Khedives 'iron men' ( a few chords of Ozzy...."Iron Man" need to look more into that.
Speaking of Napoleons cuirassiers, I recall reading about Waterloo in John Keegan's "Face of Battle" many years ago, and the description of the constant sound like hail on a tin roof, of all the bullets constantly hitting armor, helmets, swords etc.
There was probably a lot of things Custer would have wished for at the Little Big Horn!

All the best,
Jim
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Old 19th June 2009, 05:54 AM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by fearn
Hi Jim,

I don't have any good armor anecdotes to add. Still, I keep thinking about the Ghost Dance shirts of the Lakota, that were supposed to stop bullets and did not, and of the scarves worn by the old capoeiristas, which didn't stop bullets, but did keep their opponents straight razors from slitting their throats.

F
Good stuff Fearn!
Actually what I'm thinking of is not just armour, but bulletproofing, whether steel, silk, leather or whatever....and had forgotten the 'Ghost Dance'. The idea of apotropaics is definitely a pertinant associated perspective, thank you for adding these.

All the best,
Jim
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Old 19th June 2009, 09:32 AM   #9
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For a fascinating overview of this very subject in such a terrible testing ground as was WWI, I reccomend:

DEAN, Bashford, "Helmets and Body Armor in Modern Warfare".

The original book was published in 1920 (I think) and summarizes the conclusions of a commitee at the head of which was Dean himself (by then Arms & Armour curator of the MET), dealing with the analysis of personal body protection during the past conflict in order to make new (theroretically useful) proposals for the army in this field.

Or something like that.

An original is extremely hard to find and expensive, but there's been at least a couple of modern editions in the last few years, and they can be found at a good price.
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Old 19th June 2009, 01:09 PM   #10
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I have enjoyed watching Mick Jaeger in the role of famous Ned Kelly.
The helmet he wore looks so real as the actual armour used by Ned in 1880.
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Old 19th June 2009, 03:31 PM   #11
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while they turned out to be not very bullet proof, the mahdi's army wore armour at the battle of omdurman in 1898, where winston churchill led a charge of the 21st lancers against them. some references to horses of the mahdi's forces wearing quilted armour, and of the chain mail shattering under british sabre blows due it's fragility due to it's age and condition.
the lancers did not wear armour and some, including churchill used their pistols more than lance & sabre. at least till they ran out of ammo.
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Old 19th June 2009, 05:35 PM   #12
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Marc, wonderful suggestion to a reference written by one of arms and armour's true sages! Bashford Dean. I had heard of body armour's use in some degree in WWI, and these times were of considerable innovation, so the discussion on these topics must be excellent by Mr. Dean. I hope I will be able to find a copy at some point to review. Thank you for adding this!

Fernando, excellent movie, and I forgot that Mick Jagger had been in this. I caught a glimpse of only part of it....its a must see, thank you for the reminder, and I'll get it in my list of movies to watch. Always loved the 'Stones' music and interesting that Jagger (and Bowie) stand as pretty good actors as well. Thanks very much for the reminder and for posting the great photos of this armour! Reminds me a bit of the Tin Man in "Wizard of Oz"

Kronckew, thank you for the notes on the Mahdists, and especially the notes on the chain mail breaking from condition, I have seen references noting the often questionable servicability of chain mail when not properly maintained, and though Arkell has written on the manufacture of chain mail in the Sudan, it must have been expensive for the rank and file to acquire.

I recall having read about the Mahdists actually tightly binding thier bodies with tightly wound strips of cloth so as to give the the physical integrity to continue fighting as long as possible despite repeated bullet wounds. It seems that the revolver was greatly in demand to pump as many bullets as possible into these charging warriors, perhaps with that in mind.

Thanks again guys!!
All the best,
Jim
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Old 20th June 2009, 04:21 AM   #13
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If the bone breastplates of past centuries were like the ones today (and I'm not aware that they are constructed any different except for those horrid plastic "bone" beads) then they weren't something I'd go in to battle wearing for protection. The shape of the bead- which tapers from the center in both directions- and the rather loose construction would make it easy for an arrow, lance, saber, knife etc to slip through. It might work against vertical/ diagonal cuts pretty well I suppose, but those glass beads might shatter. Likewise, while gorgets were and are still pretty popular (this time of year they're pretty commonly seen around here), I think even back in the 18th century they were more decorative than functional for most tribes.

Some of the California and NW Coast tribes had wooden armor made from rods, as well as leather armor. On the Northern Plains in the 18th Century there were war shirts made with multiple layers of hide with sand mixed with glue between each layer. These shirts dropped out of use as guns became more common. There were also occassional mail shirts that turned up on Plains.
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Old 20th June 2009, 06:43 PM   #14
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Its great to see you in on this Aiontay, and of course your perspective on these hairpipe breastplates is very well placed. Great information on the hide layered with sand between layers, which I had never heard of, despite being aware of leather used as protection against arrows.




In looking further into more on the hairpipe regalia, which appears to have originated in about first quarter 19th century with Comanche's (though there are undoubtedly, as always ,varying opinions), these seem to have spread widely among southern Plains tribes, certainly farther with thier movements.

There is a pretty interesting account on these by John C. Ewers in
"Hair Pipes in Plains Indian Adornment: A Study in Indian and White Ingenuity", Anthropological Papers #50, Bureau of American Ethnology, Bulletin 164, Smithsonian reprint (from 1957), 1996. pp.29-85.

Basically it seems that the breastplates, much as the multi-row chokers, were essentially regalia and decorative costume, though there would seem to have been some deeper representation possible in many cases. It seems that these were not items to be used in warfare, as noted.

The gorget has always been an interesting item of vestigial armour, which of course is worn not as an element of protection but symbol or rank or certain ceremonial application. As noted, these were worn by British officers in the 18th century and I believe were probably adopted by the American Indians not only for apparant value as elements of rank, but possibly the close similarity to the crescent which was important in much tribal symbology.
It would be interesting at some point to learn more on the history of the gorget, I recently encountered a guy who is working on his doctoral thesis on them.

From other reading I have found that apparantly the steel breastplates were not particularly of interest to tribal warriors, and that in colonial America, one cuirass which was left among materials in one abandoned post, was found several years later still sitting and rusted through. The Indians had apparantly taken much else, but left this as unimportant or useful.
There is a much later account, though I cannot locate the exact reference, of a warrior who was called 'iron shirt' for his apparant deflection of bullets. It was later discovered he indeed was wearing all or part of an old Spanish breastplate under his clothing.

Returning to the outlaw faction in the wild west, there was apparantly a gunfighter (actually more of an assassin) who was called 'deacon Jim' for the long black frock coat he wore, attacking at night. Underneath he wore a steel plate over his chest. His time period seems to have been the turn of the century in Oklahoma (he was hanged Apr. 19,1909).
The first records for bullet proof vests officially, U.S. Patent and Trademark office, were from 1919, and the first documented demonstration of such a vest was with the metropolitan police in Washington in 1931.

From most of what I have read on the old unrifled guns and muskets, the accuracy was so questionable in most cases that bulletproof armor was probably not considered essential (myself I would want one...just in case!). I have understood the whole purpose of volley firing was essentially to be sure of hitting something, though that is certainly more perception than fact.
Obviously, close quarters fighting and melee would tighten the range of accuracy considerably, and strengthen the case for such protection.

I really do appreciate everyone joining in on this, and hope we can continue looking into other examples and instances. Briefly returning to the more magical and apotropaic perspective, I recall in research on the 'running wolf' that the purpose of so called 'Passau art' or talismanic markings on blades and amulets worn by soldiers, was to protect them in battle, especially from bullets.

All best regards,
Jim
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Old 23rd June 2009, 02:23 PM   #15
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Thanks again everybody! Great run!!

BTW, while helping my daughter move this week, moved some of my son in laws gear from his time in Iraq.....that kevlar vest is heavy!!!

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Old 24th June 2009, 01:31 AM   #16
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"From other reading I have found that apparantly the steel breastplates were not particularly of interest to tribal warriors, and that in colonial America, one cuirass which was left among materials in one abandoned post, was found several years later still sitting and rusted through. The Indians had apparantly taken much else, but left this as unimportant or useful."

damn those indians must have been as dumb and door stops or that anicdote is probably not true..

i cannot see any primative people leaving a sheet of metal so valued to the in a thin state sitting on the ground.. unless for some supersticious reasons...

as to the armor.... i guess in a western setting in recent times i cant think of anything. i know till very recent times.. 1890s.. iin parts of mongolia and tibet silk was used under armor to stop bullets and arrows.. and worked rather well..
and to armor.. i understand several maori chiefs used armor and european swords..
one chief after visiting england was giver a suit of armor from the king and sword. and apon return to new zealand used it to good effect.. would have been 1820s or before.. being imprevious to bullets and dressed in a finely made renaissance suit or armor with matching sword used this as his wounder weapon to subdue the surrounding tribes with ease..
i do seem to recall padded steel breast plates were offered for slae in the 19th century and were used by mail couriers and armed guards transporting money and gold..
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Old 24th June 2009, 04:18 AM   #17
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ausjulius
"From other reading I have found that apparantly the steel breastplates were not particularly of interest to tribal warriors, and that in colonial America, one cuirass which was left among materials in one abandoned post, was found several years later still sitting and rusted through. The Indians had apparantly taken much else, but left this as unimportant or useful."

damn those indians must have been as dumb and door stops or that anicdote is probably not true..

i cannot see any primative people leaving a sheet of metal so valued to the in a thin state sitting on the ground.. unless for some supersticious reasons...

as to the armor.... i guess in a western setting in recent times i cant think of anything. i know till very recent times.. 1890s.. iin parts of mongolia and tibet silk was used under armor to stop bullets and arrows.. and worked rather well..
and to armor.. i understand several maori chiefs used armor and european swords..
one chief after visiting england was giver a suit of armor from the king and sword. and apon return to new zealand used it to good effect.. would have been 1820s or before.. being imprevious to bullets and dressed in a finely made renaissance suit or armor with matching sword used this as his wounder weapon to subdue the surrounding tribes with ease..
i do seem to recall padded steel breast plates were offered for slae in the 19th century and were used by mail couriers and armed guards transporting money and gold..

Good stuff Ausjulius! Thank you for posting.
Actually I think you hit it pretty soundly with the American Indian warriors, there was indeed a great deal of superstition...but these warriors were brilliant...often held to be among the worlds finest light cavalry.
In many campaigns during the Indian Wars certain chiefs were commended by American officers for the exemplary way they carried out thier warfare.

I believe the Maoris, much as the Moros, were inclined to use chain mail and indeed probably had occasion to use European weapons.

I hadnt heard of the padded breast plates for armed guards and couriers in the 19th century. Do you have more details?

Thank you again for posting and for the great observations!
All the best,
Jim
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Old 24th June 2009, 04:35 AM   #18
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Quote:
Originally Posted by M ELEY
Excellent subject matter indeed, Jim. I was unaware of Union forces being offered body armor. Fascinating information. I'm not surprised that it was considered (Emperor Napolean III's cuarassiers were still wearing them into the mid-19th century) and rejected (many of the Union soldiers wouldn't even carry their M1860 issued swords, deeming them useless in battle. That's why many of these swords are in such good shape). Let us not forget the Native American bone breast plates worn by chiefs that were often adorned with British gorgets from a century before. Although not common, they were worn to deflect arrows, spears and bullets from afar. I remember reading about the Egyptian Khedieve (King) and his troops known as the "Iron Men", who still wore breastplates into the late-19th century.
Betcha G. Custer would have given his hair for a good breastplate at the Big Horn.
A breastplate wouldn't have helped Custer much. Many of the Indians were armed with Winchesters. Not to mention heavy caliber muzzleloaders and assorted breechloaders.

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Old 24th June 2009, 07:45 AM   #19
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Of course, you are right. I was just joking. On an interesting side note, is is said that despite all that Custer did to the Souix, they still had great respect for the man! When his body was recovered, he had been scalped, but otherwise, intact. All of the other soldiers at the BigHorn had been horribly mutilated out of vengence (per Native American beliefs, they would look like this in the afterlife). Interesting...
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Old 24th June 2009, 08:25 AM   #20
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Hi Folks,

A fascinating subject.

This is broadening the initial post by Jim, but tank crews used chain mail facial protection during WWI. Helmets are still in use and riot police use plastic armour reminiscent of Roman and medieval times. And then cavalry throughout the 19th century, used "armour" by way of hidden chain and sundry similar reinforcements in uniforms, to protect against sabre slashes.

In the natural Sciences Museum of La Plata, Buenos Aires Province, Argentina, there used to be an exhibit of a leather armour made for an Indian chief. From memory, it was made from seven layers of leather, and I have a faint recollection it having stopped a bullet, but not quite sure of this as I am going back some twenty years on this one. It lacked sophistication and was of a very primitive design, a bit like a potato sack.

I wonder how the French Cuirassiers fared during their Mexican campaign during the 1860s - Perhaps Gonzalo could chime in on this one.

Cheers
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Old 24th June 2009, 06:23 PM   #21
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Chris Evans
... I wonder how the French Cuirassiers fared during their Mexican campaign during the 1860s - Perhaps Gonzalo could chime in on this one...
Maybe Gonzalo has one in his collection .
A 1854 French cuirass.
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Old 24th June 2009, 07:02 PM   #22
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Quote:
Originally Posted by M ELEY
Of course, you are right. I was just joking. On an interesting side note, is is said that despite all that Custer did to the Souix, they still had great respect for the man! When his body was recovered, he had been scalped, but otherwise, intact. All of the other soldiers at the BigHorn had been horribly mutilated out of vengence (per Native American beliefs, they would look like this in the afterlife). Interesting...
LOL! I was right with ya Mark!! and no doubt any kind of armour would have been enthusiastically received! if nothing else for moral support. This event has ever since often served as an analogy for any 'hopeless' situation.

It truly is worthy of note that Custer's body was spared the terrible mutilations of the others, typically carried out by the Indian women after the combat with the pent up rage they felt, especially for those they had lost, and as noted by Mark, for the afterlife.
While I would consider the perception toward Custer more as 'regard' in his capacity as a 'chief' than respect, it is known that certain less dramatic, nonetheless symbolic, bodily mutilation was applied in that his eardrums were punctured. This is thought to have some meaning to do with 'his words' and was carried out by Indian squaws.

The soldiers were horribly outgunned, and it is true that the warriors did have a number of Henry and Winchester repeaters which both fired .44 rimfire ammunition.The U.S. government in thier frugal 'wisdom' issued single shot carbines to troops to prevent excessive use and would 'be wasteful' ! Obviously not a very prudent perspective here. There are also numerous references to jamming from both sides in the battle. This would hardly be surprising in frantic, repeating firing of the guns and the enormous amounts of dry, Montana plains dust that would have been in clouds with the intense movements of horsemen in concentrated areas. There are reports of broken knife blades and jammed actions found among the debris.
The archaeological reports of the excavations at Little Big Horn battlesite in the 1980's led to incredible forensics and ballistic studies that revealed a great deal in better understanding the use of the weapons there.

Interesting information Chris on the face mail, and I have seen the shields used by riot police in the phalanx (?)formation. The use of leather on the frontiers of New Spain is indeed well known as the Soldados de Cuero found that heavily padded leather provided protection from Indian arrows. The use of guns in those times was quite limited earlier, and even later the lack of gunpowder caused even the Spanish to rely more on the lance as a weapon.

I had not heard of the layered leather vests in South America, and it would be indeed interesting to know more toward ballistic results on these. I think that as we had noted earlier, the earlier low velocity bullets may have been stopped or at least impeded by leather or heavily folded fabric, but the higher power bullets, probably not.

Good suggestion on the cuirassiers in the campaigns in Mexico..Gonzalo where are ya?!!

In a documentary just on about the Romanovs, and the massacre of the Royal Family in Russia in 1918,the young girls were apparantly not killed by the gunfire and ultimately bayonetted and bludgeoned. It was found the bullets were deflected by corsets laden with diamonds and jewels.
Just interesting note while I was writing this

All best regards,
Jim

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Old 24th June 2009, 07:48 PM   #23
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Very interesting topic. To add a few more African perspectives on "bulletproofing" :-

During the early 20th century "Maji Maji" native uprising in the then German East Africa, African diviners gave their warriors a magic concoction that would (they thought) turn the German bullets into water !

The Ashanti warriors of the 19th century wore smocks covered with many leather pouches filled with talismans, which gave both a magical protection against bullets and some possible actual protection against low velocity black powder projectiles (sometimes bits of metal or stones).

The 19th century warriors of the Sultanate of Bornu used cuirasses made of iron and iron helmets.

For what its worth...

Regards
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Old 25th June 2009, 06:24 AM   #24
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Jim McDougall

I believe the Maoris, much as the Moros, were inclined to use chain mail and indeed probably had occasion to use European weapons.

I hadnt heard of the padded breast plates for armed guards and couriers in the 19th century. Do you have more details?

Thank you again for posting and for the great observations!
All the best,
Jim
hi jim.. yes.. honestly the desire for iron among the american natives and their value of it.. i couldnt see a breastplate being discarded unless they had leaft it for some great fear or a superstitious kind..

i think the tlingit and hada and other peoples along the pacific coast did make mail from metal washers and coins. and also wooden and shell armor but i think ti was more to deflect their own weapons, darts and arrows and not realy related to protection from bullets. although from what i understand these people had common use of firearms since the 1770s as the main weapon..


as the maoris using chain mail.. i have never heard of this..
it would be interesting to see something about that.

as to the metal plates for armor guards in the 19th century .. i seem to recall seeing several thins.. but i cant remember where. i i think one might have been an addvertisment.. for a padded steel plate.. i seem to recall pinkerton or wells fargo.. or others may have used these......
i guess they were porably the same as the metal breast plates sold during the civil war..
i do recall seeing some place somebody may have made and sold chain mail shirts or some such crazy think in the u.s. in the 19th century also..




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Old 25th June 2009, 07:41 AM   #25
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Quote:
Originally Posted by fernando
Maybe Gonzalo has one in his collection .
A 1854 French cuirass.
Fernando

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Hi Fernando,

A very handsome piece - Is it yours?

Cheers
Chris
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Old 25th June 2009, 01:16 PM   #26
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Chris Evans
Hi Fernando,

A very handsome piece - Is it yours?

Cheers
Chris
Oh no, Chris .

Just found it here:

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

In this area, i only have this part:

http://www.vikingsword.com/vb/showthread.php?t=10276

Best
Fernando.
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Old 25th June 2009, 05:30 PM   #27
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Hi Ausjulius,
I do believe you are right on the American Indian tribes of the Northwest fashioning armour of wood and material using metal attachments, and as you note, am not aware of intended deflection of bullets. The advent of iron came late to these regions as far as locally produced metalwork, but they did use copper in considerable degree. While they could produce copper items, I believe they obtained a great deal of copper from trade, as well as from sheathing on wrecked ships that were lost along the coast in those endeavors.

On the note on Maoris use of chain mail, I will have to check further as I do not recall exactly where that reference was or if perhaps I may have inadvertantly misincluded that along with Moros. There is of course always the possibiity of singular cases from trade or European contact, but we of course are looking for significant use.

I found the name of the American Indian chief who was apparantly called 'Iron Shirt'. He was I believe a Tonkawa (?) in 1850's Texas, Chief Pohibit Quasha, and apparantly had an old Spanish breastplate. It seems that, at least in various references it has been noted that the tribes were at least in some degree intrigued by the various implements of the White Men, and that these objects would have been kept as kind of trophies whether used or not. The interest afforded a long held old Spanish morion seen in the movie "Dances with Wolves" (which was in my perception pretty well researched) I think reflects such possibilities.

It is known that while the Indian warriors did not use swords in combat, at least not in incidence well known, and that they did acquire them as trophies. These were held in high esteem and seem to have become elements of ceremonial regalia.

It would seem that there was a great deal of invention and innovation active in the Wild West, and I enjoy watching the television documentary series "Wild West Tech" in which they review many elements of weapons and various implements used in those times. The records of the U.S. Patent office would probably reveal quite a few pretty humorous 'inventions' proposed in these times, though many were remarkably sensible, even though obviously quite anachronistic. I would guess by then the patent on chain mail from the Middle Ages would have expired

All best regards,
Jim




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Old 25th June 2009, 07:05 PM   #28
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SOME OF THE TRIBES (ESKIMOS) IN THE FAR NORTH USED A FORM OF BONE ARMOR BACK INTO PREHISTORY. THEY CONSISTED OF A SERIES OF BONE PLATES WITH HOLES DRILLED OR CUT THRU THEM ATTACHED TO SOME HIDE A PIECE OF WALRUS OR WHALE LEATHER WOULD SERVE VERY WELL. THIS KIND OF AMOR TYPE SERVED AS A SECOND OUTER RIBCAGE WHICH IS THE ARMOR AND SUPPORT WE ARE BORN WITH. PERHAPS A SKELETONS RIBS GAVE US THE IDEA OF THAT FORM AND NO DOUBT TURTLE,FISH AND ARMADILLO MAY HAVE HAD A INFLUENCE ON OTHER FORMS IN THE PAST.
SOME TRIBES WERE SAID TO HAVE USED THE ARMOR OF THE GARFISH FOR BODY ARMOR, ARROW POINTS AND ARROW QUIVERS. I DON'T REMEMBER WHICH TRIBES BUT THE LARGEST GAR LIVE IN THE SOUTHERN UNINTED STATES. ITS NOT UNUSUAL FOR A ALLIGATOR GAR TO REACH TEN FEET LONG AND WEIGH 350 POUNDS. I READ SOMEWHERE THEY WERE STUDYING FISH ARMORS TO IMPROVE SOME OF TODAYS BODY ARMOR.

THE USE OF THE GORGET GOES BACK TO PREHISTORY IN THE AMERICAS AND IS FOUND OVER A VERY WIDE AREA. SHELL AND COPPER GORGETS WERE FOUND IN SPIRO MOUNDS IN OKLAHONA WHICH DATES TO AROUND 1200 AND OLDER EXAMPLES ARE KNOWN. ANOTHER INTERESTING TOPIC THANKS JIM AND ALL
PICTURE OF AINCENT ESKIMO BONE ARMOR PLATE.
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Old 25th June 2009, 08:02 PM   #29
Jim McDougall
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Great information Barry! The idea of armor in many ways approximating anatomy is seen also in cases of many African shields, where the elements of the shield were often called by terms associated to anatomy, such as spine, ribs. Interesting also in the use of animal components as elements for various types of weapons and armor. As noted earlier, the gorget has stood as a fascinating vestigial element of armor well known in military regalia for some time. It is interesting that these have always been presumed to have entered the Indian cultures post contact, but it seems possible that they were in effect around long before that..perhaps with other symbolism?

Ausjulius, it would seem that I must have misapplied the comment on Maori use of chain mail, and probably interpolated with the established Moro use. I did do some checking though, and did find one interesting instance in which armour did at least some degree of use, if only as a novelty. In "Museum, Anthropology and Imperial Exchange" (Amiria J.M.Henare, p.105) two Maori chiefs voyaged with the schoolmaster Thomas Kendall to London in 1820.
They were introduced to King George IV, who presented them with gifts including a suit of armour to Chief Hongi Hika, who upon his return to New Zealand, wore this in attacks on his old enemies.
It is noted that Thomsen ("Story of New Zealand" Vol.I , 1859, p.256) observed that this suit of armour had been pieced out to various individuals by 1859, and in 1849 the breastplate alone had been in the possession of a chief near source of Waipa river and in 1853, the other chief from the voyage had buried the helmet with his dead son.

Other references noted that since fighting among Maori tribes involved mostly hand to hand combat with clubs and similar weapons that armour was not worn, and warriors donned only the grass skirts. Therefore, no real evidence of chain mail, but the instance of the gift armour was of interest.

All best regards,
Jim
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Old 26th June 2009, 02:00 AM   #30
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I just got back from a business conference in Houston, so a few disjointed comments; hopefully I write some more comments later. First, superstition is in the eye of the beholder, so I treat explanations that rely on "ceremonial" causes with a bit of caution. Maybe they left the steel breastplates because they were in a hurry and they were too heavy (there's a story about Kiowas leaving a huge gov't. shipment of gold coins and taking a huge load of sugar after a successful raid because they liked sugar, but couldn't figure out a use for the gold), or may be they didn't have chisels or files at the time to cut up the metal. As for swords, they were used extensively in combat; there is plenty of ledger art as well as written sources that attest to this. I just recently ran across a Spanish account from the 18th century that notes the Pawnee were well armed with guns and swords. I don't recall the Tonkawas having an iron shirt but there were several "Iron Shirts" out on the Plains in various tribes. One of the first Cheyenne casualties in the fight where they lost their Medicine Arrows to the Pawnees was a Cheyenne with an mail shirt; he was shot through the eye.

As for gorgets, I'll have to remember to ask about the symbolism, at least in the Southeastern system. That should be pretty easy to do. As Vandoo notes gorgets have been around a while. I've never heard of gar fish being used as armor. The scales were definitely used as arrow heads and the teeth are still used by one of my friends and others for scratching during Green Corn ceremonials, but the smaller gar teeth, not alligator gar since their teeth are too dull.
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