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Nineteenth-Century "Union" Uniform Belt
Starting Bid - $400.00, Sold For - $940.00
Rare 1850s/1860s belt once belonging to a member of the “Union” fire brigade. The brown leather belt is trimmed in white and features a decorative window design in the center. “Union” is lettered in raised relief within the center of the belt. One of the metal buckles is designed in the shape of a circular fire hose, while the opposite “clip” end displays the number “1” in raised relief (possibly denoting the engine company). An elaborate feature of the belt is the sliding metal fastener (with utility clip) that is attached to the main body of the belt. Pictured on the front of the fastener, in raised relief, is the image of fireman in full uniform holding a fire horn in one hand and an infant in the other. The initials “GI” appear on the reverse in white-painted stenciled letters. Although this piece was clearly issued as a fireman’s belt, the possibility remains that it also saw use as a baseball belt. Most early men's social clubs were simply extensions of each neighborhood or town's local fire company. As baseball rose in popularity, those social clubs also sponsored baseball teams. Thus, many of the earliest baseball teams had their origins with fire companies and were composed of firemen. Alexander Joy Cartwright himself, one of the founding fathers of baseball, was a member of the New York Knickerbockers Fire Fighting Brigade several years before the Knickerbockers baseball team ever took the field in 1845. The early connection between fire companies and baseball is the reason many early baseball uniforms were designed in the style of fire uniforms (often displaying a shield design on the front of the jersey). As a cost-cutting move, members would then use the belts from their fire uniforms with their baseball uniforms. For that reason, many early nineteenth-century firefighters’ belts are indistinguishable from baseball belts. Several very prominent baseball teams were known as the Unions in the 1860s, including the Unions of Morrisania (New York). The belt measures 37.5 inches in length and displays wear commensurate with its age and former use. Minor cracking to the leather is evident throughout, but all of the components remain firmly attached and the belt is in Very Good condition overall. Reserve $400. Estimate (open). SOLD FOR $940.00
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