Boer War Page 93t3
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Victorian - Edwardian Horse Memorabilia 1887-1902 - 3

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Victorian - Edwardian Horse Brasses 1887-1902

Great Canadian Heritage Treasure
Cast Horse Brass, Queen Victoria's Jubilee - 1887
Orig. horse brass - Size - 95 mm
Found - Clappison's Corners, ON
This fine antique brass was issued to commemorate Queen Victoria's Golden Jubilee in 1887, and though it shows a polished front, from the attention of many keen - but misguided - owners over the years, the back is untouched. It shows the dark uneven grime that gradually builds up on the unpolished backs on real antique brasses that the repros just do not have. The crispness of the lettering also separates this from the muddied edging that is seen so often in dupes made from second or third generation repros.
Great Canadian Heritage Treasure
Hand Stamped Horse Brass, Edward VII - 1901
Orig. horse brass - Size - 90 mm
Found - Dundas, ON
Two versions of King Edward found in Canada are this solid God Save the King example, and the other Edward the Peacemaker with cut outs below. Both sides show age burn, the pitting and patchwork of dark blemishes that cannot be manufactured by the repro men. This one had two holes punched in to allow riveting to some leather piece of horse tack. It is also irregularly bowed and shows clear hammer marks on the back, unlike the machine stamped ones below which are uniformly flat and do not.

All four pieces on this page are fine examples of the three manufacturing process used to make antique horse brasses in late Victorian times.

Horse Brass Primer

Roman Amulets - Metal horse decorations date from Roman times, when simple amulets of bronze were hung on horse tack to bring good luck or to help ward off evil spirits.

Hammered Brasses - The first horse brasses were cut from sheets of brass (an alloy of 67% copper and 33% zinc). The basic shape, always with a loop on top for fastening a strap, was then cut, filed and hammered out, leaving hammer marks. Hammered brasses, a lot made by gypsies, were phased out about 1825, gradually superseded by stamped and cast brasses.

Cast Brasses - The largest number of horse brasses were made by the casting process, with genuine antique brasses produced from about 1825 to the 1930s. The original design was carved out of wood, usually pear. The finished carving was pressed into a casting sand mold to create a group of closely adjoining impressions connected by narrow channels. Brass was poured in, flowing to all the impressions, and two nails or studs inserted in each brass, to use as grip points once the metal cooled and solidified. When the brass was hard it was lifted out with the projecting studs, which were held in a vice to do the finishing work including cutting off the "get," the joining metal strips. The handling nails were then cut off, leaving two small stubs in the back of a cast brass, a good way to identify antique cast, as opposed to stamped brass, which has no stubs.

Manual Stamped Brasses - About 1880 stamped brasses appeared. A punch stamped out the basic outline of a desired brass shape; other punches then stamped out various smaller holes of different sizes out of the basic brass. But using so many punches made it laborious and time consuming work. For others a die was created to contain the complete relief of the desired image. The brass plate was hammered in.

Machine Stamped Brasses - About 1900, machine punching permitted a horse brass to be punched out in one operation.

With the decline of horse transport, and the appearance of the motor car, after World War I, demand for horse brasses declined drastically. By the 1930s stamped brass production stopped and has not been revived.

The Queen Victoria Jubilee brass top, and others below, clearly shows the stubs on the sides that identify cast brasses.

The King Edward and Queen Victoria brasses above and below, which have no stubs, are clearly a product of manual and machine stamping.

Cast brasses tend to be thicker and heavier than stamped brasses which can use machine power to make good designs on thinner sheets of brass. Repro men pour cast brasses.

One of the strong indicators of an antique brass, besides the blotchy dark patina, is the ancient white residue left behind when brasso was used to polish the front and dripped onto the back. Some of the white turns grey through time betraying generations of polishing.
A fine brass that is unusual because it features a registry mark for the year that it was issued. Another indicator of age burn is the bright highlight rimming where the dark staining left by age burn, in the middle of the ring, has been rubbed off by jangling about against the leather while on a working horse.
Sadly, polished like new on the front... But the back tells the tale of a hundred years of grimy encounters on a succession of work horses.
A rare cast horse brass of Joseph Chamberlain, who was Colonial Secretary during the late Victorian, and early Edwardian eras. His sons Austen and Neville played leading roles in the early 20th centuries in British and world politics, Neville bringing home the Peace in Our Time document after a visit with Herr Hitler at Munich in 1938. A year later, World War II began.

Sharp-edged lettering is another helpful indicator of a genuine antique horse brass, instead of a repro cast from duplicates that often produces poor definition in letters and faces etc.

A very rare and fabulous Queen Victoria bust horse brass.

At one time its mount has received a bad knock, but has probably lived most of its life on an upper class carriage horse, or in a drawer so that its patina has been allowed to age gracefully and uniformly, like good wine.

Victorian - Edwardian Horse Regalia 1887-1902

Great Canadian Heritage Treasure
Breastplate Martingale Horse Brasses, Queen Victoria, King Edward VII - 1902
Orig. martingale set - Size - oa 86 cm
Found - Shakespeare, ON
This is a breastplate martingale, designed mostly for decoration. The long loop, top, on this and the other martingales below were all fitted to the belly strap of the horse. The large buckle end was fastened to a neck collar on the horse.
Simply Fabulous! When, ever, in a lifetime, will you come across two such fabulous pieces of historical memorabilia horse brass, still on their original leather mounts, such as these?

In a world of mostly reproduction horse brasses, these martingale mounted antique brasses are rare indeed.

This leather is at least a century old and once dangled the horse brasses on a Canadian work horse's chest.

The brasses have never left the worn loops on to which they were sewn by a saddle maker so long ago.

The crispness of the edging in the letters and the patchy staining on the back are hallmarks of real antique brasses. The backs are actually considerably darker than the photos show.
Great Canadian Heritage Treasure
Military Running Martingale, Otto Moody - 1901
Orig. martingale - Size - 1.3 m
Found - Wibaux, MT
This plain Jane martingale was used by Otto Moody during the Boer War.

This "running'' martingale is an unadorned, no nonsense, working piece of Canadian Boer War military horse training gear, commonly referred to as a "training fork." The dual straps are each attached with rings to left and right reins; the anchor end goes around the cinch belt under the horse's belly. A rider, pulling on the reins, can bring the martingale into play to keep a horse from raising its head to throw off a rider on its back.

So many horses were killed during the Boer War that shiploads of new stock were constantly being carted to South Africa from Canada, the US, Hungary, England, wherever they could find fresh replacement horses. Many were bought wild so breaking them for saddle use was a constant activity for many troopers in South Africa

Otto Bushnell Moody - 2 CMR 1901-1902

This fabulous military martingale was used by Pvt. Otto Moody above, from Montreal, who went overseas in 1901, as a member of the Canadian Mounted Rifles. He was only 18.

Being the whelp in the litter, he was endlessly picked on for practical jokes by the men in his contingent.

Shortly after arriving in South Africa - Otto's letters tell us - his horse was stolen. But the men of his company rallied to his side and presented him with a new one they had specially picked for him. Otto must have been proud when gleaming eyes surrounded him as they presented him a new pony.

Trouble was, as Otto discovered when he tried to mount it, it was an unbroken bucking bronco, and threw him for a mighty tumble, much to the predictable merriment of his helpful comrades in the regiment.

But, the proud teen would not be made fun of. In letters to his sister Beth he wrote that he persevered, being thrown time and again until he and the pony became very good friends, thanks no doubt to the martingale and cinch belt left, which Otto used in South Africa.

The running martingale, or training fork, was used to keep a horse from rearing, by holding down its head so it couldn't buck. The numerous saw marks the martingale made on the belly strap can be clearly seen, testifying to the many times Otto was thrown.

Above is an example of how Otto would have set up his running martingale. The optional neck strap, if Otto had one, has not survived. It was used to hold back the dangling martingale strap so the horse, if running or jumping, would not, inadvertently, step through the loop and fall, with possibly deadly consequences for the rider. More than a few Boer War soldiers and officers died after falling from horses in one way or another.

Otto's fabulous running martingale and cinch belt were among his South African War treasures that he kept all his life.

Left, are the spurs Otto wore in South Africa and accompanied him to the ground on many occasions... Like all the other Moody memorabilia - with the exception of the martingale and cinch belt - these are signed as belonging to Otto, either in his handwriting, or as on the spur straps, stamped with his regimental number D 48, i.e. Trooper #48, of D Squadron (2CMR).

All Otto's memorabilia from the war, including some 20 letters home, were found in a trunk in an abandoned house in Montana.

Go to Otto Moody's Duffle Bag
Great Canadian Heritage Treasure
Cinch Belt, Otto Moody - 1901
Orig. cinch belt - Size - 1m 6 cm x 8 cm w
Found - Wibaux, MT
Great Canadian Heritage Treasure
Spurs, Otto Moody - 1901
Orig. spurs - Size -
Found - Wibaux, MT
Great Canadian Heritage Treasure
Snaffle Bit, RNWMP - 1904
Orig. snaffle bit - Size - 22 cm
Found - Toronto, ON
Left from the estate of a Boer War era member of the RNWMP is a snaffle bit, featuring its customary jointed mouthpiece.

Otto probably used a snaffle bit like this with his running martingale above.

It was designed to gently work on all parts of a horse's mouth and is considered a mild bit because it is non-leverage and does not amplify the pressure exerted by the rider on the horse's mouth.

The joint gives when one side is pulled and does not ram around inside the horse's mouth, especially on the opposite side.

Great Canadian Heritage Treasure
Curb Bit, RNWMP - 1904
Orig. curb bit - Size - 22 cm
Found - Toronto, ON
This Boer War era curb bit belonged to the same RNWMP trooper as the snaffle bit.

Western riders - they're a tougher, no nonsense bunch - generally used to prefer the curb bit - with a solid bar for a mouthpiece - which amplifies the pressure on a horse's mouth. When one pulls the rein on one side the entire bar starts to ram around, prying off the inside of the horse's mouth, showing him that the rider means business. The jointed mouthpiece, which acts as a non-levering shock absorber, is missing in this bit.

Western riders were used to catching and training wild horses, which was not a money-making enterprise but a necessary time wasting exercise on the frontier. So anything which could speed up the process, and show the horse who was boss, like the curb bit left, was preferred..

Riders in the east were generally dealing only with broken, relatively tame riding horses, so preferred the more gentle snaffle bit.

Otto was such a sensitive soul. Letters to his sister show he regarded horses more as pets, even when they were unbroken.

Perhaps life in the wilds of South Africa toughened this softie city boy so that, in the end, he gave in to using the curb instead of the snaffle bit...

Great Canadian Heritage Treasure
Breastplate Martingale, RCMP - 1890s-1920s
Orig. martingale - Size - 1.4 m
Found - Vancouver, BC
Probably Canada's most coveted breastplate martingale.

This is a Royal Canadian Mounted Police martingale from early in the 20th century. It belonged to a Staff Sergeant who took part in the famous RNWMP ride during the Coronation Parade for George V in 1911, in London, UK below. He was apparently involved, thereafter, in the RNWMP and RCMP musical ride. It could well be a souvenir item he brought back, given him by a friend in a British unit that took part in the parade. It has the Queen Victoria cypher, and the Order of the Garter surround. The RCMP was probably stitched on by him in the 1920s.

Like the first martingale, top, this is a breastplate martingale because it is mostly decorative, instead of a utilitarian training fork like Otto Moody's. But instead of being anchored to a horse collar this one actually looped around the horse's neck.

It is extremely rare to find works of memorabilia art with provenance to a particular original owner.

Such is not the case with this unique set of memorabilia items, above and left.

This fabulous memorabilia print was painted by Art Hider to celebrate the Canadian participation in the Coronation March of 1911.

It was acquired by a Staff Sergeant in the Royal North West Mounted Police, who was one of the red coats shown trotting past Canadian Prime Minister Sir Wilfrid Laurier.

It retains its original frame and wavy glass.

Accompanying it was the fabulous brass RCMP breastplate martingale

Below, one of the men below was our guy cheered by hundreds of thousands in the streets of London

Left below, RNWMP training for the parade in Canada, weeks before going overseas.

The men here are using a sort of standing martingale of white rope, attached to the noseband instead of the reins.

Great Canadian Heritage Treasure
RNWMP & RCMP Memorabilia, Coronation March, 1911
Orig. print & martingale - Size - 95 mm
Found - Vancouver, BC
Great Canadian Heritage Treasure
Loving Cup, George V & Queen Mary Crowned, 1911 (1935)
Orig. ceramic loving cup - Size - 26 cm
Found - Toronto, ON
No 383 out of 1,000
This fabulous Royal Doulton loving cup is easily the most spectacular memorabilia ceramic ever produced to celebrate a Victorian or Edwardian celebrity. This giant and opulent jug was produced as a limited edition of 1000 in 1935, in celebration of 25 years on the throne.

It does justice to the incredible spectacle that overwhelmed the small town and farm boy Canadians who went to London to take part in the ceremony.

c Goldi Productions Ltd. 1996 & 2000