JAIC 1987, Volume 26, Number 2, Article 5 (pp. 121 to 129)
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Journal of the American Institute for Conservation
JAIC 1987, Volume 26, Number 2, Article 5 (pp. 121 to 129)

COWLES'S PATENT MOTH, MILDEW, AND WATERPROOFING TREATMENT AND THE U.S. ARMY, 1869–1876

Ann Cordy Deegan



6 ABANDONMENT OF COWLES'S PROCESS

The U.S. Army ceased using Cowles's process after 1876.47 The reasons for cessation of use did not question the efficacy of the treatment. The Army's tests and officer reports generally supported its use as did the results of two Army Boards of Inquiry (1872 and 1874).48

By 1872–1873 most of the Civil War Army enlisted clothing surplus was exhausted and a new pattern of uniform appeared.49 The size of the Army decreased from that of the Civil War era as its main roles changed to frontier patrol and control of civil disturbance.50 The large quantities of woolen garments in storage decreased as did concern about exposure of fabric and garments to pests.

The major reason for the Army's abandonment of Cowles's process seems to have come from charges that Cowles and Company bribed Army officers. In 1874 an employee of Cowles and Company, hired to be a lobbyist with Congress, claimed that his salary was lower than he was to have received. He quit and promptly charged that bribes had been made to and accepted by Quartermaster Officers in return for use of Cowles's process—not that the treatment was ineffective.51 This resulted in cessation of use of Cowles's treatment to allow for military inquiry (1874 Board of Inquiry).52 An anti-Army House of Representatives, eager to save money, responded by inserting a clause in the Army appropriation bill of 1875–1876 stating that “no part of this sum…shall be paid for the use of any patent process for the preservation of cloth from moth and mildew.”53 This effectively stopped the use of Cowles's process despite the fact that the military board ruled positively on Cowles's process and a House investigation provided no proof that Army officers had taken bribes.54

Cowles's treatment was never reintroduced by the Army during the years after 1876 as this was a period when Congress tried to decrease the size of the Army and was loath to appropriate monies for them—not an auspicious time to reintroduce the use of a treatment that Congress had so quickly suppressed.


Copyright 1987 American Institute of Historic and Artistic Works