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Late 19th Century artillery/ordnance insignia, medal for identification


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The nationality, uniform and insignia details of this cabinet photo have eluded my attempts at identification. The prominent wheel superimposed over the artillery trail and cannon barrel on the collar insignias, the domed buttons all numbered either 538 or 638, the medal with lettering around the rim of the face side, and the lack of epaulettes have so far made this late nineteenth century cabinet photo a mystery to me. Your assistance is appreciated.

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I hesitated to post the back of the cabinet photo because after two weeks on the US Militaria Forum, Orders and Medals Society of America forum, and Collectors Weekly forum several opinions consider the uniform, insignia and medal not United States military. The photo is mounted on a Boston, Massachusetts USA photographers card. Since there is no crown on the insignia I am thinking a non royal military of the late 19th century that used numbered buttons is a candidate for research. Even with magnification it is not possible to read the medal, however the form of mounting may help with identification. A possibility I considered is that the rank may be on the sleeve which is not in the photo. Boston is a seaport city so the portrait may have been taken during the visit of a foreign warship.

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Could the number on the buttons be 1638 (instead of just 638)? The Ancient and Honorable Artillery Company of Massachusetts was founded in 1638. It was established as a military company in 1638 to train young officers for service in the various militias of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. It's is now a quasi-military service organization. See it's website: http://www.ahac.us.com/index.htm

You will see that today they were uniforms very similar to the current US Army uniforms. In the 19th Century perhaps they also wore a uniform similar to the active Army, but somewhat different.

I haven't been able to find any photographic evidence, but I'd bet a couple bucks that this uniform is The Ancient and Honorable Artillery Company of Mass.

They have contact info on their website; perhaps an email with the image attached could confirm or deny the thought.

Edited by IrishGunner
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You are correct in thinking this is a member of the Ancient and Honorable Artillery Company of Massachusetts. I telephoned and emailed the historian at the headquarters in Boston and he confirmed this was a member of the unit.

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You are correct in thinking this is a member of the Ancient and Honorable Artillery Company of Massachusetts. I telephoned and emailed the historian at the headquarters in Boston and he confirmed this was a member of the unit.

Great that the mystery is solved! Were they able to give you a name of the man?

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Unfortunately there is no name on the photo and the available rosters go back to 1889. I had thought the AHAC member looked like Adelbert Rindaldo Buffington, US Army Ordnance officer 1861-1904 who was at Springfield Arsenal about 90 miles from Boston. The historian and I both knew the Buffington rear sight for the 1878 model Springfield rifle, but Buffington was not a member when the available AHAC records were searched. It was thought an active duty regular US army officer would wear his service uniform rather than wear the uniform of a private in the AHAC. Since the AHAC was a well photographed society unit perhaps a named photo may be discovered and the man in this photo identified.

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