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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Dec 2003
    Location
    Virginia
    Posts
    66

    My 19th c Muley saddle on Ebay

    I need to recapitalize my small business, so I'm selling off a lot of stuff from my collection, including a 19th century Muley type saddle with an undocumented folk provenance of having belonged to a Texas cavalryman. I've listed it as a Civil War saddle but have made it clear in the auction that it MIGHT be post War and outlined some of the arguments either way.

    Here's the link: http://cgi.ebay.com/ws/eBayISAPI.dll...m=260218891337

    I'd be interested in y'all's views. I've discussed it with a couple of saddle historians who feel that there's a good chance it could be an original but that it's clearly been modified / messed around with over the years. Interested in the opinions of the folks on this forum - Ken Knopp, you out there?

    It's quite similar to the "knobby" Muley that's on Ken's website and I've linked to his site & that picture (and put in a plug for his book).

    I bought it because (1) it's such a fascinating "could be" (I love stuff that's been patched / repaired / modified over the years, (2) it was inexpensive and (3) I had an ancestor in a Texas Cavalry unit that mighta coulda theoretically used something like this. My reserve is low, as it reflects the fact that the provenance is only verbal / hearsay. As much as I want / need to get money for this, I don't want to turn into one of those Ebay skinners who try to sell iffy stuff as definitely CW. Personally, I think this one is a definite "maybe", nothing more... But possibly nothing less.

    So, let the brickbats fly!

    -- Kathryn Coombs

    Kathryn Coombs
    Cleydael Farm
    (former civilian moderator of this here place until captured by film industry... missing my hobby!!)

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Dec 2003
    Location
    Mississippi
    Posts
    798

    Re: My 19th c Muley saddle on Ebay

    Hello Kathryn,

    I do not want to be the bearer of bad news here but in my opinion anyway, I am quite certain it is not a CS saddle. It simply does not fit the common patterns, construction techniques nor economy of CS saddles. What you have is clearly a muley saddle.
    I will point out that this particular saddle pattern is quite common in the area of the mid-South. I have seen several over the years. In fact, I handled one just like this in a friends collection just this past Sunday and I have also owned one of these same saddles. They are all nearly identical to yours (excepting a few less tacks on the pommel) but beyond that they are the same tree pattern, russet leather covered seat, skirt, (usually with fenders) wood stirrups, brass rings, etc. and, with the brass tack pattern and rings on the pommel. All saddles the same or nearly so. NOTE: the Confederacy would not waste brass on saddle ornamentation like this- another reason they can be discounted as CS.
    I have never been able to identify them to a maker but my speculation is that they are not only a post war saddle but from several old timers (I am told and believe) they are likely an early 20th century (maybe as late as the 1940's) saddle. “Maybe” (informed speculation only) they are a saddle commonly called a "McBride" saddle. Old timers tell me (Heresy alert!) McBride was a late 19th to 20th century saddle maker from east Tennessee. I have heard several locations for this firm bantered about including Bristol Tennessee/Virginia but I am not clear on any of them. I have also heard this saddle called a “Ferguson saddle” by another knowledgeable saddle collector. He tells me Ferguson was a saddle maker in Moscow Tennessee. Moscow was a small town in lower middle Tennessee during the war but the name was later changed to Rossville. I have also heard these saddles were made in Kentucky. In any event, it is all speculation on my part because I cannot find documentation for these firm names anywhere.
    However, I put more credence in the McBride name and so after hearing the name for years I researched the maker's name in preparation for my books. I note this information in my second book "Made in the CSA, Saddle Makers of the Confederacy". I found that the McBride name as saddle maker does NOT appear in any of the "Citizen's Files" records (Confederate Papers Relating to Citizens or Business Firms, M346, Record Group 109, Confederate Records, National Archives). So, with that dead end I believe this firm did not have any business with the Confederacy.
    I am sorry that I am not much help but maybe someone else can provide some documentation or additional speculation on this saddle. I'd be interested!


    Ken R Knopp

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Dec 2003
    Location
    Virginia
    Posts
    66

    Re: My 19th c Muley saddle on Ebay

    Thanks, Ken -- I'd never assumed the brass on this was CS issue - it would have obviuosly been civilian private purchase if indeed it's War era and if so probably purchased before the war, not during time of shorages.

    I think it looks way to old to be as late as 1940s. If it's not war era, based on your opinion, I'd guess late 19th c into WWI era. Interesting about the different makers of Muleys in the Tennessee / Kentucky region, McBride / Ferguson / etc. Seems to me that the muley type saddle was more popular than a lot of us think,at least into the mid 20th -- from the probable CW examples to the 1870's-90's Morgan saddle catalogue to the makers you mention.

    Thanks again for your insights

    Kathryn Coombs
    Cleydael Farm
    (former civilian moderator of this here place until captured by film industry... missing my hobby!!)

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Dec 2003
    Location
    Mississippi
    Posts
    798

    Re: My 19th c Muley saddle on Ebay

    Kathryn,

    Here are a couple of photos of muley's similar to yours. In fact, one is nearly identical I would suggest.
    Tracing the evolutions and names given saddles is frustrating and difficult. It seems to me, various names were applied to civilian saddles prior to the war sometimes with little appreciable translation for us today. I have a number of 19th century saddle catalogs and other documentation that seem to provide a general understanding of the mid-19th century appearances of saddles with names such as "Somerset", "Kilgore" , "Spanish", "Half Spanish" and "Spring seat". Others such as "Creole" (Attakapas I believe), "Hope" (or "Texas") and "California" are more clear but then others such as "Sabine", "Buena Vista" (not to be confused with the popular post war "Genuine Buena Vista") and my favorite, "monkey saddles", entirely escape my comprehension. I could be wrong but I think that sometimes saddles were given various names by their makers more for marketing purposes (hence the Mexican War names) rather than in keeping with any established patterns.
    Tracking the evolutions of saddle patterns is very, very confusing. For example, "Kilgore" and even "Somerset" saddles with various but prominent pommels were often made similar to muley's (and even McClellans to further confuse the issue) before and after the war. I tend to believe (but without concrete and collaborating "written" documentation) that muley's (something like we know them today) were made during the war by the Southern military however, it is clear they were VERY common "after" the war with the explosion of the catalog trade. The Morgan saddle (named after John Hunt Morgan) was particularly popular and came either with a horn or without one and hence the name "Morgan Muley" (or just "muley" for short). Hybrids of these and other patterns (often taken from popular war time military patterns) were made in many, many variances, styles and decorative embellishments after the war. Again, some were given names to drive sales such as the "Mosby".

    Ken R Knopp
    Attached Images Attached Images

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Dec 2003
    Posts
    52

    Re: My 19th c Muley saddle on Ebay

    Ken,

    What is the purpose of all the hardware up where the horn would go?
    Barry Bowden


  6. #6

    Re: My 19th c Muley saddle on Ebay

    Ken,

    I've got a couple of questions. In YOUR OPINION, would a muley saddle like Ms. Coombs be inappropriate for a pre- or early-war civilian impression? Also, would a saddle like this have possibly seen service as a civilian purchase? I'm not at all familiar with how popular this tree design was during the war, either military or civilian and I'm just curious.
    Larry Morgan
    Buttermilk Rangers

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Dec 2003
    Location
    Mississippi
    Posts
    798

    Re: My 19th c Muley saddle on Ebay

    In my opinion, the “classic” muley as represented by Ms Combs saddle was not a common pre war pattern. I could be wrong about this but I believe that while similar patterns “may” have been around in some small numbers its popularity really grew as a result of the war. In particular, its evolutional adaption by the Confederacy (as a relatively easy to make, cheap and durable saddle tree) and then made popular by the “Morgan” saddle (horned and muley) during the post war (1870's to 1920's) explosion of the commercial catalog business.
    Beyond the military patterns, what was popular prior to the war among the civilian population was a number of saddle patterns including the “Somerset”, Kilgore”, “Spanish”, “Half Spanish”, “California”, “Creole”, “Texas” (or other horned saddles), and of course varieties of flat saddles including English, American and Spring seat saddles. These were all basic patterns but often made up in any number of different ways with embellishments including leather additions, tooled leather, stitched/padded seats, decorative hardware and stirrup varieties.

    The following is taken from my book CONFEDERATE SADDLES & HORSE EQUIPMENT (Chapt 2 but I also refer readers seeking more information to the book’s introduction.

    “In the decade or so prior to the War, Northern manufacturers in Philadelphia, Connecticut, Newark New Jersey and other places were making great strides at developing the commercial saddle industry targeting in particular, the Southern “riding” market. Their inventories included English, Heavy English, American, Spring Seat and other flat saddle varieties. (Fig. 2 & 3) Increasingly popular everywhere were horned saddles such as the Spanish, Half-Spanish, Ranger, American, Californian, Hope, the horned Creole saddle and others. Still more unidentifiable saddles were given sundry names for the endless styles and decorative embellishments applied by their manufacturers.
    Unfortunately, the true appearance of some of these individual patterns, while probably better understood in their time, are difficult to identify today. Many that are commonly referred to today as “Plantation saddles” (a 20th Century term) are just variations built upon the simple “English” skeleton frame tree of the old world. (Fig #4) An example is the “American” which appears to have been a hybrid of the flat saddle brought from England in early Colonial times. This murky identification is most poignant among the differing nuances of horned saddles. As the forerunner of today’s “cowboy” saddle, the “Spanish” saddle with the wooden horn for roping cattle and horses originated in Mexico. Adopted by Americans, they were given an assortment of names from the 1820s to the 1860s. Indeed, the term “Texas” saddle was widely applied by contemporary non-Texans and later, by most Confederates, to any horned saddle. 3. “

    The photo enclosed is a good example of a typical pre war “Kilgore” type saddle. Note the pommel (the cantle is broken and disfigured) which “kinda” exemplifies the Kilgore. It is from pg 61 of my book where you can read about its particular history. Sorry for the brevity here. Its late and time permits but a brief summary. Really, a more complete explanation is required for a better understanding of civilian saddles.

    Ken R Knopp]
    Attached Images Attached Images

  8. #8

    Re: My 19th c Muley saddle on Ebay

    Quote Originally Posted by Ken Knopp View Post
    The photo enclosed is a good example of a typical pre war “Kilgore” type saddle. Note the pommel (the cantle is broken and disfigured) which “kinda” exemplifies the Kilgore. It is from pg 61 of my book where you can read about its particular history. Sorry for the brevity here. Its late and time permits but a brief summary. Really, a more complete explanation is required for a better understanding of civilian saddles.

    Ken R Knopp]
    Thanks, Ken. That's what I was looking for. Since we're now on the subject of pre- and war-time civilian saddles, can you look at this ebay find and tell me if its truly representative of a civilian saddle of the period? To me, it looks similar to the Kilgore you posted the pic of, but I'm unsure. I almost always discount the owner's statement about "CS Issue" because 99.9% of what you find on ebay lack any real documentation and so many of the sellers go strictly on heresay.

    I'm not sure this link will work, so if it doesn't you can find what I'm looking for under collectibles, militaria and type in "saddle" (Item number: 370034139571).

    http://cgi.ebay.com/ws/eBayISAPI.dll...E:B:EF:US:1120
    Larry Morgan
    Buttermilk Rangers

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Dec 2003
    Location
    Mississippi
    Posts
    798

    Re: My 19th c Muley saddle on Ebay

    Yes Larry!! Very Nice one! I'd say that would work nicely for civilian. Good shape too. Sorry to be brief. On vacation and on internet at $1.50 a minute

    Ken R Knopp

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Dec 2003
    Location
    Atlanta, GA
    Posts
    517

    Re: My 19th c Muley saddle on Ebay

    Is it my eyes or the photographs on Larry's eBay find....but, sure looks like a whole lot o machine stitching to me - and decorative at that. How do you account for this in the 1850 -= 1870 period?
    Mike Ventura
    Shannon's Scouts

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