The New Tropical Telegraph 

El Nuevo Telégrafo Tropical

 Number 2            The Rayadillo Project Newsletter             September 2009



NEWSLETTER: The New Tropical Telegraph









¡Hola Amigos!,

This issue of the newsletter opens later that I had hoped.  I have been moving my 86 year old mother from Texas back to Ohio.  It has been a longer and harder job than expected and has taken all my time for the last several weeks.  Thankfully, things are getting back to normal.  Even though I have been busy with Mom, things have still been happening in the world of rayadillo research.  This edition of the New Tropical Telegraph details some of the latest developments.

Happy reading!


Collection News

don josé Castellvi Vila's leopoldina joins his sombrero

In last month's edition of The New Tropical Telegraph, I told you about acquiring an identified straw hat from Spain.  I am pleased to announce that I have also been able to add the same officer's dress shako to the collection.  Doctor José Castillvi Vila served as a medical officer in Cuba during the late 1890's and had this shako with him.  The white felt shako is made in the Leopoldina style, a smaller and lighter version of the Ros.  It needs restoration and the front plate.  If you have a Sanidad Militar shako plate for sale, please let me know! 






an early volunteer's blouse

Awhile back, I had the opportunity to buy a number of artifacts at an auction of the Spanish American War collection of Dale C. Anderson.  Among the many important finds was the early rayadillo Volunteer's jacket seen at right.  Its short length and wide sleeves at the elbow are indicative of uniforms used in the 1870's and 1880's.  Although there was no history behind this garment, it very closely matches jackets seen in a photo of Puerto Rican Volunteers taken in 1888.  In addition to this jacket, I also won a second rayadillo jacket of an 1890's Cuban Volunteer, a General Staff Corps officer's chapeau bra, a Model 1867 Infantry officer's dress sword named to a Cuban Volunteer and a number of cockades, buckles and insignia.  All in all, it was a great day!







Manila Volunteer Battalion Button Acquired

In general, Spanish military uniform buttons are an inexpensive and enjoyable branch of collecting.  Most patterns are common and easy to find.  But, as in all fields of collecting, there are a few "Holy Grail" examples for which all collectors search.  One of these is the button for the Manila Volunteer Battalion.  Last month I was contacted by a very nice gentleman, George Guild, who found the ¡Rayadillo! website while searching online.  It seems that Chuck, as he prefers to be called, had many years ago been given a cache of Spanish uniform buttons by Mrs. Parry, the widow of a veteran of the Philippines campaign.  Among the 70 or so buttons were a number of interesting examples, many documented patterns that I had not known were used in the colonies.  Among the little silver and gold plated treasures was the object of my personal 'quest'.  The elusive Manila Volunteer button was part of the group!  Chuck and I negotiated a deal for this and a number of the other buttons which will be featured in the book.  The new "star" of my button collection is shown here.  Not only did I get a rare button, but even better, I made a new friend in Chuck.  All because of the website.




New on the Website

Infantry Buttons Page now open

A page tracing the developmental history of Spanish Infantry buttons during our period of study is now up on the website.  This page appears much the same as it will in the book, barring any new information or additions.  I will also be adding a second page that will be a sampler of other Spanish buttons.  Why not offer pages with all the information on these other buttons you ask?  The answer is simple and maybe just a little mercenary; I want to sell the book when it is finished!  The full story of 19th. century Spanish military, police and civil service uniform buttons will be a complete chapter in the book.  As more progress is made toward a publishable product, the website will still continue to be updated with new and interesting information.  Just don't expect me to included everything I discover.  That's what the book is for!






Colonial police book a gift from Spain

I am very pleased and humbled to accept as a gift to the project the book, La Policia Española de Ultramar: Cuba y Puerto Rico by Miguel A. Camino Del Olmo and  Vicente Cabo Meseguer.  The book was presented by co-author Camino Del Olmo as a courtesy to help further the research on my book.  I had been looking for a copy, unsuccessfully, for a long time when Miguel and I accidentally ran into each other on a Spanish button collector's forum. The book is an excellent study of the colonial paramilitary police forces deployed by Spain to fight both criminal and insurgent activity.  The history of the colonial development of the Civil Guard, Orden Publico, Rural Guards and other organizations is detailed.  There is also a great deal of information on uniforms and arms.  I am very grateful to Miguel for his generous gift and look forward to sharing more information with him in the future.  Meeting good folks from around the world, like Miguel, is one of the greatest rewards I receive from this project. ¡Muchas gracias, amigo!






On Campaign

A raid on Springfield for shoes

Springfield, Ohio is the home of the Clark County Historical Society.  This local museum is professionally managed and houses an extensive collection related to the area; an important political, cultural, and industrial center in 19th century Ohio.  About ten years ago a friend of mine, Geoff Giglierano, worked at this museum and pointed out a pair of shoes he thought would interest me.  They were a pair of Spanish Army issue ankle shoes made in Cuba.  As the years passed, I always kept those shoes in the back of my mind.  Last July my friend Geoff, known to his old comrades as "Heska" (too long of a story for here), was back in town for a visit.  We talked about the rayadillo book project and the subject of the boots came up.  As Heska wanted to see some old friends at his former workplace, I took the opportunity to see the boots.  He made the proper arrangements and that very afternoon I was examining and photographing these incredibly rare artifacts.  To my knowledge, no other pair exists in the U.S.  (Please let me know if I am mistaken and there are other examples in other museums or collections.)  The staff at Clark County Historical Society could not have been more friendly or helpful.  I hope to have the opportunity to work with them again, soon.  Thanks again, Heska, for all you have done for me over the years.  Your friendship is treasured.





The Relief Column

A welcomed helping hand from fellow collectors

One of the most fascinating side paths in researching the story of rayadillo has been the study of the Philippine Independence forces during the Spanish American War period.  In the US, little is still known about these other rayadillo clad soldiers.  Too often they are confused in our minds with the Moros of a slightly later period.  The armies of the Katipunan movement and General Aguinaldo were disciplined organizations with detailed uniform regulations.  Despite chronic supply shortages, they managed to keep their men clothed in a fairly uniform fashion.   Pedro Antonio Valdez Javier has been my mentor in this field.  An Engineer by trade in his native Philippines, Perry is the author of several articles on Philippine Independence Army uniforms and insignia.  He is also very active with Living History groups and commemorative ceremonies there.  We first met in 2006 after he found the ¡Rayadillo! website.  He has cheerfully shared images and information with me over the last few years and has set me straight on the rapid changes in rank insignia used by the Filipino freedom fighters.  Not only does he keep me updated with photos of reenactments around Manila, but as a devoted family man, he also delights in sharing photos of his lovely family as well.  I am very grateful for the assistance of this knowledgeable friend and Filipino patriot.  Thanks Perry!  I look forward to many more years of cooperation and friendship.




The Book

A period of transition


In the journey of writing this book, I have come to that proverbial fork in the road that I always knew I would have to address.  As the book progresses toward completion (still sadly a long way off) I must consider how much information to share on the website and what to hold back so as to not hurt the ultimate sale of the book.  If I add all the new discoveries to the site, then who will need to buy the book?  I still want to share what I find with you, the loyal followers of the ¡Rayadillo! website, and I will continue to add new pages.  These new pages will be in more of an overview form, still filled with useful information and photos as good as I can take them.  But the book will be vastly more detailed and informative, rich in artifacts and period images.  I know this transition may come as a bit of a disappointment to some of you.  I understand and promise that the website will still be interesting and useful.  Had I not told you of my intentions, you may not even have noticed a difference.  But I want to be honest and up front with all of you as you have all been so very helpful and encouraging to me.  I hope you continue to enjoy the website and that you will be blown away by the book!

And as for when the book will be completed?  Well, I have been saying "In two years" for about four years, now.  However, I believe that time schedule is now more realistic than before.  So lets shoot for sometime in 2011 and see how close we get to the mark. 




Huddled in the Blockhouse

requests, questions and random thoughts

If you can help, contact me at

The Saga of the Knapsack Flag

I have just completed an article for Military Trader magazine about Spanish knapsack flags and the controversy among many American museums, dealers and collectors as to the true purpose of these simple soldier's flags.  They are often misidentified as regimental battle flags, or at least a tropical version of them.  In the article, I try to show how that flies in the face of common sense and examine the real story of these popular souvenirs.  The article will be in the October "MAX SHOW" edition that comes out in late September.  Please look for it and let me know your opinions.





So, What's In Your Back Yard?  Don't Be Afraid to Blow Your Own Horn

As I related above in the story of the Spanish Army shoes, some really important artifacts can be found in some really off the beaten path locations.  I simply cannot visit every small town historical society or state military museum, so I am asking for your help.  Do you know of any institutions with holdings of Spanish colonial artifacts?  Private collector's, what are you hiding in your closet?  It doesn't have to be a big collection to have an important item in the rayadillo story.  Clark Country Historical Society only has the one pair of shoes, that's the full extent of their Spanish collection! But what an important item.  Don't assume that I know were all the treasures are hidden.  Drop me a line at and you might just help expand our knowledge of Spanish military material culture, and get your name in the book on top of it!






All of the July Issue Requests are Still Open

Yes, you are not too late to help out with my wish list of the Ros medical plate, collar insignia book and Chassepot rifle information.  I still need them all.  Please, contact me if you can help or direct me to someone who can.









Back Issues of the New Tropical Telegraph

Number 1 - July 2009


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