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United States Uniforms
May 12th, 1966 (?) Dated, U.S. Army, 1938 Pattern, Blue Color Mess Dress Uniform, Belonging to a Finance, Major General, Named: "Ralph Julian Richards, Jr.", The Commanding General of the U.S. Army Finance Center
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This uniform is believed to be dated May 12th, 1966, but we are not sure. The date's last digit is somewhat faded and is very hard to read, but appears to be either 1966 or 1968, which either way is correct for this General. This uniform is a U.S. Army, 1938 Pattern, Blue Color, Mess Dress Uniform. The manufacturing details of this uniform match the 1938 specification very well. And that fact is not all that common to find these days as a great many of these Mess Dress Uniforms did not adhere to the 1938 specification as they were commercially purchased jackets custom made from tailor/tuxedo shops from around the world. This uniform is named in to "R.J. Richards" which for the purist is great proof of provenance of the identity of it's owner.
The overall condition of this jacket is conservatively rated in a HIGH EXCELLENT to a LOW MINT CONDITION as it shows almost no wear as all. There are not even any of the usual multitude of tiny pin holes found on the upper left breast from General RIchards wearing his regulation miniature size ribbon bar/medals. Even the black color satin lapel faces are in great shape too.
The 1st detail to discuss are the 2 gold bullion epaulettes. They both are found screwed down to each shoulder and are the correct "slip-on's" to regulations. These gorgeous epaulettes are both matching and appear to be of a slightly higher quality than some other cheaper "Celon" types found. They have a higher qualitybase material and their tongues are of a high grade leather, and not of the cheaper plastic type tongues that some Officers wore. They are also nicely age toned to a slightly darker color gold patina than from new. This light age toning really looks nIce. Each of these epaulettes has the usual screw down, smaller size, button attachment piece. Each button is of the more expensive, 2 piece face type and they also appear to be matching.
As for the lower face of this jacket, it has the regulation 2 rows of 3 medium size frontal buttons. They are sewn on which is more rare than usual as most of these buttons found on other similiar Mess Dress Uniforms were of the removable type that more easily facilitated cleaning. These 6 frontal buttons are of the more expensive, deluxe 2 piece face design. Also, these buttons were sewn on with a light gauge of thread then is common, but it's of the proper color. These frontal buttons all appear to be matching and hallmarked. As is also to regulations, this jacket has 2 rows of 2 button holes found on it's 2 vertical frontal edges, of which only 2 of these button holes were ever used. In this case the closure buttons are a bit odd as they are of the very small diameter size type. They are not as large as some found on other Mess Dress Uniforms. These buttons are connected together with the standard, small length of false gold color chain. These 2 chained buttons are of the cheaper, 1 piece face design, but they are both hallmarked and are matching nevertheless.
Moving on to the lower sleeves, each lower sleeve has the regulation black color, velvet cuffs as is proper for a General. The velvet material is in great shape on both cuffs. Also, found on these velvet cuffs is the regulation gold color bullion embroidered oak leaf motif as is correct for a General. This gold bullion embroidery is of the very deep type which makes this braid really stand out to the eye. The gold bullion oak leaves have age toned to a somewhat darker gold color patina. But they also have some brighter color gold threading in the bullion leaves that still shows here and there. This gives the bullion embroidery a sort of a 2 tone color effect, and it looks just marvelous. Found placed just above the black color velvet cuffs are the regulation silver color bullion embroidered stars for the rank of a Major General (i.e.: a 2 Star General). These stars are of the heavy silver color bullion embroidery style, and are directly embroidered on a black color cloth backing. These in turn have then been hard sewn to each sleeve. Of all of the many gazillions of these silver color bullion stars that we have seen over the years, these are some of the thickest, or "puffiest" that we have ever encountered. They are so deep and puffy that they look very much more 3 dimensional compared to the more common flatter types usually found. As for the rear sides of this uniform, it is cut in the correct regulation fashion, and it shows nothing interesting (or detracting) worth mentioning here.
Moving on to the interior of this jacket, it is of the fully lined type. The lining is probably made out of a satin or artificial silk/rayon type of a material. This lining material is conservatively condition rated as in a LOW EXCELLENT CONDITION, showing no major defects, tears, or sweat staining. This lining shows no interior entry portals for access to the frontal button shanks. This is correct for a jacket that does not have removable frontal closure buttons. Since there was no need to un-snap these frontal closure buttons as they were directly hand sewn on to the front face of this jacket; then there was no need for any entry portals in the lining to access the back side of these buttons. Next, the inside of this jacket has 2 interior pockets. Many of these jackets have only 1 pocket, and some even have no interior pocket at all (white color Mess Dress Uniforms almost never have internal pockets, or at the most, then just 1 pocket). Found sewn above 1 of these interior pockets is a machine sewn on, bevo style, 2 color, cloth owner's "initials" tag. This tag reads: "RR", and is embroidered in silver gray and in blue colors for each individual letter. Obviously, the "RR" stands for "Ralph Richards", which is great proof of provenance of the identity of the General who owned this uniform. Also, another great proof of provenance for the collector is that this "RR" tag has been machine sewn to the jacket's lining material BEFORE the lining was installed into the body of this jacket. This is an excellent proof of identity feature to have present. Now, there is a 2nd cloth tag that is found sewn in this uniform jacket. This time the tag is found sewn to the outer side of 1 of the inside lining pockets. This tag is a tailor's tag of bevo style weave and is embroidered in silver color threading over a black color base material. This tag reads: "Lautenstein's. SAN ANTONIO, UNIFORMS of DISTINCTION". This company is a well known manufacturer of military uniforms. There is also another cloth tailor's tag found sewn inside of this same inside pocket. This time the tag is embroidered in black color lettering over a white color base material. The tag reads: "Lautenstein's, SAN ANTONIO, UNIFORMS of DISTINCTION", and found just below these words are areas that are lined for: "NAME", "DATE", and "FABRIC". There is a faced hand inked in "NAME" of: "R.J. Richards", and placed on the "DATE" line is: "5-12-66" (or possibly "68"). This is the proof of provenance that is always found so desirable among collectors today.
The last item to mention is that this uniform includes about 7 pages of bioraphical/historical research information pertaining to General Richards career. This information is just great to obtain for a collector. In this case, however, the information only really starts to get detailed around the year 1957. This unfortunately, leaves out the really cool World War II biographical information that is so interesting to us old timers.
Comments from the Curator:
O.K. folks, here is a very affordable, and IDENTIFIED, General's uniform. A General in charge of the Army's Finance branch may be rather mundance for some. But a knowledgeable collector/historian would remember that in reality, Finance branch uniforms are much harder to find due to it's small branch size. But at least this factor helps keep this uniform affordable for the collector on a tight budget. If only we could have found the World War II history of this General.........what wonders it could tell! We can only guess at what cool things he did in World War II to get his other awards/medals. If that period's information would have been available to us up front, then the selling price for this uniform wold have been much higher. So as it stands now......you get a lower price.
Also to note, is that in the included information file there are 3 photos (actually they are photocopies of photos, which could be purchased from the National Archives) of this General. And he has some very interesting awards/medals to mention. First to note, is that Richards was awarded 3 "Legion of Merit Medals", which is 1 to 2 more than is usually found for most General's. Next, he has a "Bronze Star Medal", which is always nice to encounter, but not always found on some General's uniforms, especially for a rear area Finance branch soldier such as this. Next, he has been awarded a "Good Conduct Medal", which is only awarded to Enlisted Men (again........if only we had his earlier career information!). Also so interest, is that Richards was awarded the "European/African/Middle Eastern Campaign Medal". But in this case he also has on it 3 bronze star devices, which means that in Europe he had served through a whole lot of campaigns, which is a pretty good accomplishment for a Finance Officer, wouldn't you say? His other award ribbons are all pretty common, but of additional interest is that he has 2 ribbons (and a 3rd on his right breast) for service in Korea, which is always a nice enhancement. All in all, this uniform is both very well identified, solid, and quite affordable, making it a fine addition for any collector on a tight budget.
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