United States Military School Uniforms: Chronology

Figure 1.--This boy looks to be a cadet officer at a U.S. miliary school. Note the pillbox style cap and braid on his jacket. Also notice the puttees. This looks to be a dress uniform, note the white gloves and sword. This is a Spanish-American War era uniform. The image is undated, but HBC would estimate about 1905-10.

Styles have generally changed over time as U.S. Army uniforms have changed. Some schools have used the West Point cadet style uniform, but most American military schools have followed the various uniform changes over time of the U.S. Army and Navy in one way or the other. Many avaialble images are undated, but by comparing them to the established dates for military uniforms, some dates can be estimated. The caps are particularly useful in heping to date these images. Of course not every school followed U.S. military styles prescisely or changhd their uniform with each change by the miliary.

Early 19th Century

We are no sure when the first military schools were founded in the United States. Nor do we know anything about the uniforms of these early wars. We know that West Point was founded in 1802. Presumably it was the first military school in the United States.

Civil War Era

There were a few military academies in the United States before the Civil War. Some even played a role in the war. We have only limited information on American military academies during the War-era. We note quite a number of boys wearing military school uniforms. A good example are two Philadelphia brothers in the mid-1860s. The Civil War had a huge impact on the United States. Clothing was just one of the influences. For many years after the Civil War, boys at miltary schools wore kepi caps. The rest of the uniform varied. All of the academies before the War had long pants uniform.

Late 19th Century

The basic Civil War style uniform was adopted at military schools throughout the United States. The portraits we have seen show blue uniforms. There may have been some grey uniforms, but perhaps not immediately after the War. Of course West Point had grey uniforms. But most military schools had uniforms similar to actual U.S. Army uniforms as they were blue. The Civil War styled uniforms continued for some time at American military schools. After the War some schools adopted kneepants uniforms. We are not sure when this occurred, but believe it was well after the War, perhaps in the 1880s. This varied widely from school to school. We still see Civil War style uniforms being worn into the 1880s. We see some schools updating their uniforms in the 1890s. Basically they were following changes in U.S. Army uniforms.

Turn of the 20th Century

At the turm of the 20th century we notice pill-box style caps with small brims. Many schools changd to Spanish-American War era uniforms. The image here is a good example (figure 1). We have not noted American military schools adopting uniforms with pillbox hats, but our informatiin is still realtively limited. Puttees were common. White gloves were normally required with dress uniforms.

World War I Era

The United States declared War on Germany and entered World War I (April 1917). The War had been rageing in Europe since 1914. The United States sent a large Expeditionary Force to France (AEF). The uniform was changed from the one worn in the Spanish American War (1898). It was an olive green uniform worn with a wide brimed hat. I'm not precisely sure when this uniform was adopted, but military schools around the country quicly conformed to it. Interestingly, it was the same basic uniform adopted by the American Boy Scouts. Some schools might have destinctive features to their uniform, but others simply adopted scaled down versions of the official U.S. Army uniform, but without the official insignias. The younger boys at American military schools might wear knickers.

World War II Era

After World War the Army changed the uniform to more of a tan color. The Army also added a necktie. These changes were quickly implemented at most military schools. Many schools followed changes in the U.S. Army uniform both in style and color. We notice some schools that had unfoorms destinct from Army uniforms. We note one school, for example, that had a blue and yellow uniform, but we do not know the name if the school.


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Created: March 9, 2002
Last updated: 14:58 AM 6/22/2016