The 1880 photo of Company B shows off their Winchesters and their clothes. Some wore bandanas. Some wore ties. Some wore vests. Some didn't. Note the pistols laid out in front of the 2 front row men. By 1880 they had obtained 4-3/4" barreled pistols (or cut them down as was done). But some still used 7-1/2" barreled Colt's.
Frontier Battalion Co. B about 1880 ©1999 Texas Ranger Hall of Fame and Museum Neckwear ranges from ties to bandanas to wild rags. Hats range from 4 x 4s to wide brims, one "Montana Peak" or campaign hat style. All 3 Colt pistol barrel lengths are represented here.
1887 Texas Ranger Note gloves, cross-draw holster, "boiled" shirt, sombrero, shiny high-heeled boots and big spurs, and, of course, a tie.
The 1887 Ranger photo is one with the subject not wearing a vest. He appears to have a sombrero. This isn't surprising. Sergeant Gillett said every ranger who got assigned to south Texas would show up at his next assignment wearing a sombrero and vaquero pants and coat. This ranger doesn't have vaquero clothes, though. (But a Vaquero outfit on a SASS member portraying a Texas Ranger wouldn't be out of place at the Saturday night awards party.) He does have a "boiled" shirt. A shirt like that exists at the Cowboy Hall of Fame in Oklahoma City. Again, he's wearing a tie. He's not wearing suspenders, but he's young, rides a horse all day, and has only one gun. Again, it's a Colt, with ivory handles, and a knife to match. The knife is in front of the pistol, like Gillett, but he's wearing his pistol butt forward on his left side. It's a straight drop holster. Cross draw holsters like we use didn't exist then. He has on gloves, and his left hand is holding a riding quirt, but he has "Texas" spurs on the high-heeled square-toed tall-topped boots. The spur straps are the big, wide variety.
"Boiled" Shirt on display at National Cowboy Hall of Fame and Museum in Oklahoma City.
Sergeant Ira Aten, 1887. A better quality photo than the 1879 Jim Gillett photo. He has a stag handled Colt, long barrel, worn cross-draw, and a matching stag handled coffin-handled Bowie knife, both on weak side. His boots are probably brown, definitely square toed, and 16-18" high. He's wearing a vest and a tie and a flat-brimmed hat with a very tented crown that could have a Gus-like crease.
Captain John Hughes (right front row, wearing sombrero) and Company D with a Mexican prisoner, left front, 1894.
Note Capt. Hughes' sombrero.
Captain Hughes' belt, holster, and Colt are at the Texas Ranger Hall of Fame and Museum.
Rangers George Black and J. M. Britton, ca. 1895 ©1999, Texas Ranger Hall of Fame and Museum
Note the hats are very sombrero-like. The boots are
in much better shape than Callicott's. No suspenders, no ties, no vests,
long johns showing at neck. They're wearing gauntlet gloves. The holsters
are for shorter barreled guns, 5-1/2" or 4-3/4".
The 1895 photo of rangers George Black and J. M. Britton shows them without vest, suspenders, tie, or bandana, but with sombreros, real sombreros, not the cartoon ones you see today. They are both wearing gloves as well. Note that Black has his gunbelt on backwards, putting the cartridges in front, a trick we CAS® players thought we invented. Both have knives on their weak sides. Britton has thin spur straps on his boots.
Later photos of Texas Rangers showed their dress improved. Captain Hughes' company was photographed in the late 1890s, and each man was wearing a suit and tie, a far cry from the near rags McNelly's Rangers started out with. So a Texas Ranger could be well dressed at the Saturday night awards dinner and still be historically correct.
Most of the available Rangers were called out to prevent a prizefight, between Fitzsimmons and Maher, in 1896. Captain Hughes, second from the left on the front row, is a tad better dressed than the 1894 shot. These well-dressed gentlemen are a far cry from McNelly Ranger William Callicott.
That's reality. The painting of McNelly, LEANDER MCNELLY, TEXAS RANGER®, by historical artist Joe Grandee shows an idealized McNelly, and thus an idealized Texas Ranger. McNelly was 5'6" tall and thin, 130 lb. or so, suffering from tuberculosis most of his adult life. So he was probably not quite as imposing as the artist paints him. The painted McNelly looks about a foot taller than the real one. This is what we would all like to look like, but few have the body for it (including McNelly).
LEANDER MCNELLY, TEXAS RANGER®, by historical artist Joe Grandee This fantasy version of the Texas Ranger is what we all want to look likeor that masked man who was that masked man?
But that's a painting. It has some fantasy in it. Come to think of it, so does CAS®. You have the choice, if you're portraying a Texas Ranger, of going for authenticity or fantasy or some of both.
References: Leander McNelly, Texas Ranger, by Bob Scott, Eakin Press.
Taming the Nueces Strip, The Story of McNelly's Rangers, by George Durham as told to Clyde Wantland, University of Texas Press.
A Texas Ranger, by N. A. Jennings, University of Oklahoma Press
Cowboys and Trappings of the Old West by William Manns and Elizabeth Clair Flood, Charlotte Berney (editor)
Texas Rangers, a Century of Frontier Defense by Walter Prescott Webb
The Men Who Wear The Star: The Story of the Texas Rangers by Charles M. Robinson III
Six Years With the Texas Rangers, 1875 to 1881 by James B. Gillett, Milo Milton Quaife (Editor)
A Texas Ranger by J. A. Jennings
The Law Comes to Texas : The Texas Rangers 1870-1901
by Frederick Wilkins
Getting Started In Cowboy Action Shooting Page 7
Captain Baylor's Ranger Camp Home