United Sheeplined Owners Unite!...............(and show us your jackets)

B-Man2

Well-Known Member
Introduction:

B-Man2
: One of the advantages I’ve enjoyed since joining the VLJ Forum is the making of new friends and acquaintances. As I like to say, “I’ve made new friends, who I just haven’t met yet.” Two of those new friends are Jan (Mulceber) and his wife Natalie. The three of us get together occasionally over the phone, and Jan and I text each other a few times a week. Mostly to talk about jackets and the latest and greatest repros and originals currently being sold. It was during one of these sessions that we came up with the idea of doing a comparative analysis of a couple of original WWII A2 jackets from the same contract, in this case the United Sheeplined Contact, in which 25,000 jackets were made in May 1942. Both of us are fortunate in that we own original United Sheeplined A2 jackets from this contract, his being a size 42 and mine a size 46. We will take a look at the jackets to see what manufacturing characteristics are similar, and what variations exist due to hurried war time production. We will also take photos of the details of each jacket for your review. At this point I’m going to shut up and let Jan jump in here and tell you more…….

Mulceber: Hi all, Burt introduced this well, so there’s not too much for me to add. This project came about when we were talking and realized that we both own an original from the same contract. We wanted to do something a bit different from your run of the mill “look at this awesome jacket I just got” post (although I always like seeing the latest additions to people’s collections), so we thought it’d be fun to put together a thread for comparing notes on this comparatively unsung contract. If you have an original one of these, we’d love for you to chime in. If you have one of JC’s repros of the United Sheeplined contract, we’d also like for you to chime in, if only to illustrate what features Good Wear decided to reproduce in their jackets.

B-Man2: Ok , so now that you have a general overview of what we will try to pull together in this posting, we’ll start by looking at the basic history of the United Sheeplined A2 jacket. The United Sheeplined Co. was one of many A2 contractors and was part of the I. Spiewak and Sons family along with the Bronco Manufacturing Company. (Attributable to the research of John Chapman at the Good Wear Leather Company.) The United Sheeplined A2 went into production in May of 1942, and was the only contract awarded to that manufacturer for a total of 25,000 jackets at a cost of $8.15 per jacket. The total value of the contract was $203,750.00. For many years it was believed that most A2 contracts were made out of horsehide or goat hide. It wasn’t until the completion of Gary Eastman’s research and the release of his “Type A2 Flight Jacket Identification Manual” that it was confirmed that cowhide was used on a number of major contracts previously thought to be horsehide. DNA testing proved that cowhide was used on this specific contract. (Before we go any further, let me give Gary Eastman the credit for this information and for his outstanding research and documentation in his book). There are a number of unique and unusual details incorporated in the making of the United Sheeplined A2 that sets it apart from other manufacturers’ jackets of the WWII period of production.
Size 46
DDAB494E-FCE6-486A-8331-2F4A83E8FFD5.jpeg
B82A0B73-8548-4252-863A-493ECB383523.jpeg

Size 42

Collars

B-Man2
: So let’s start by taking a look at the collars of the two jackets we have as examples of that contract. The United Sheeplined A2 has a regular collar, without the collar stand incorporated in earlier manufacturers’ A2 jackets. By this time (1942), collar stands were being eliminated from contract specifications as they were time consuming to make and sew onto the collar, not really necessary, and the process delayed production. It was also late in the production period of the A2 jacket, as the original jackets started production around the 1932/1933 time frame. In fact, the A2 jacket contract award period was approaching its final years, as the last contracts for the A2 terminated in the summer of 1943, and the A2 jacket was phased out. The B-10 jacket was replacing it as a warmer and a more practical flight jacket. The collar is nicely designed without the wide bulky look of the Rough Wear style collar, and actually compliments the overall look of the jacket. It has nicely pointed collar tips that also add to the stylish look of the jacket as well.

Mulceber: Agreed! The pointed collar tips match nicely with the angled corners and tips of the pocket flaps, and the beveled pocket corners, without going into Doniger or Spiewak territory. Since you brought up the history of the contract, I’d like to add that ’42 was an interesting year for the A-2. From January to June, nearly twice as many A-2 jackets were contracted as in the entire rest of the years in which the jacket was made (510,000 out of an approximate total of 790,528 jackets). Then, nothing in the second half of the year, and just three contracts the next year before the A-2 became outmoded. Sorry, that was a bit of a tangent…time for some pictures of the collar!
Size 42
347B1FDD-B548-4DE0-B8FC-A6E9D9DB4C2F.jpeg

42AA4F73-E7A9-4614-BAC9-3B54E7FA32F0.jpeg

Size 46

Epaulets

Mulceber
: The United Sheeplined epaulets tend to be thin and taper so that they are wider at the shoulder than at the neck. As John Chapman notes in the write-up for his repro of the U.S. contract, the main distinguishing feature of this contract’s epaulets is that they sit directly on top of the shoulder seam, rather than being nestled in front of or behind it, as is common. This feature is at least in part responsible for their most noticeable trait: the epaulets don’t sit flat. Instead, they look like they were made too long for the jacket, and they tend to flare up, whether the jacket is lying flat or being worn. On my jacket’s left shoulder, the shoulder-side x-box is perfect, while on the neck-side the lines don’t meet the corner. On the right shoulder, it’s the reverse. Mine also has an odd pattern pressed into the leather on the left epaulet, which also appears on the left patch pocket, underneath the pocket flap (more on that below). Your turn, Burt – feel free to add anything I missed, and tell us about yours.

B-Man2: Well, the size 46 jacket epaulets are made in the same manor, with the wide end attached near the arm seam, with the long slow taper to the attachment point on the neck area. The epaulets have double row stitching on both sides. The X-box cross stitching does not meet the box at the shoulder seam, but is sewn about ¼ inches short of that seam. Something that is a bit different on the 46 is that the attachment point for the epaulet at the arm seam, is actually outside of the arm seam, as you can see in the photograph. I attribute this to hurried wartime production and nothing more.
Size 46
9EC471B5-D258-4ECD-BFCE-B845F67DBB89.jpeg
6D7A804C-1A69-48B1-A434-3CF29E979126.jpeg
Size 42
 
Last edited:

B-Man2

Well-Known Member
Snaps

B-Man2
: The snaps used on both jackets are United Carr small ring studs with nothing particularly note worthy, as that was one of the prevalent snaps used during that period of time.

Mulceber: Yeah, nothing really to add here. They’re one of two basic types of snaps used on A-2s, and they’re the kind that became increasingly common in later contracts.
Size 46
AE907F3D-F347-401F-926B-425200B247D8.jpeg
2190A97E-F550-42BF-BD94-5912F56B4C18.jpeg

size 42

Sleeves

B-Man2
: The sleeves of the United Sheeplined A2 are described in Gary Eastman’s A2 Manual as being “Flat Sewn” into the jacket. After a bit of research, I learned that Flat Sewn is a method in which a flat sleeve is sewn into the jacket before the side seems are sewn up. It is supposedly a quicker way to attach a sleeve. Not being knowledgeable or skilled in sewing I assume that this would have been a time saving technique used to speed up production.

Mulceber: That’s my understanding as well, although prior to starting this project, I didn’t know what flat sewn actually meant. I always knew that it’s quicker, but that it partly contributes to the tendency of the arms on many A-2 jackets to ride up when you lift your arms. The majority of A-2 contracts were constructed using this method. Interestingly, of the companies that went for the alternative, inset sleeves, none received more than one contract. It could be a coincidence, but it might also suggest that these companies had trouble producing at the speed that the government demanded. When it comes to understanding what flat sewn vs. inset sleeves would have meant for the construction of the jacket, Natalie was able to bring forward her knowledge of sewing and crafts, and explain the difference between these two methods clearer than either Burt or I can:

Nnatalie: Burt is correct that it would be a quicker way to attach the sleeve. With a “flat sewn” sleeve, you only need to sew two seams: (1) The sleeve shoulder into the armhole, and then (2) up the body and along the arm in one swoop. Essentially, you’re making a poncho with two long flaps (future sleeves) on the sides, then sewing up the sides. With an inset sleeve, you have to sew three seams: (1) The side seam of the body, (2) the separate seam to make the sleeve into a tube, and then (3) attach the sleeve to the body. Essentially, you’re making a vest, making a tube, and then fitting them together. In addition to the extra seam, sewing a round tube into a hole would require more careful manipulation of bulkier pieces than sewing two flat pieces of material together would require. The advantage of the inset sleeve is that the sleeve-seam doesn’t have to fall precisely at the middle of the armpit. Instead, the sleeves can be rotated before being sewn in, in order to improve the wearer’s range of motion.
Size 46
388FEFFB-8277-4931-8D63-D6CF97572D3C.jpeg
2838BA38-7C7E-4C56-96DA-76B870B2E482.jpeg

Size 42

Body Panels & General Comments on the Jacket

Mulceber
: The United contract was originally made in russet horsehide, although it was among the contracts that for a long time was suspected, and eventually confirmed by Eastman, to have been filled at least partly in cowhide. This is unsurprising since, as mentioned above, this contract was being filled at the same time as over 500,000 other A-2 jackets, and horsehide was at a premium. The russet on my jacket is a bit more muted than other contracts that I’ve seen (compare, for example, the Cable 27753 I posted a couple weeks ago), but the leather is (still) supple and some of the areas that were subject to more flexing have some beautiful wrinkles. (as an aside VLJ is the only venue I can think of where a person might brag about wrinkles). The area around the collar on my jacket has darkened with patina. At one point it evidently had a name plate, but this had been removed by July of 1943, for reasons that I’m about to get into. The left shoulder has a heat-transfer AAF decal (AKA meatball, AKA Hap Arnold logo). This is strange, because the regulation that mandated the decals for jackets was implemented at the same time (July 1943) as the one ordering that jackets be re-dyed “McQueen brown,” and the two policies were implemented on the same jackets: ones that were currently in stock at the depot. My jacket has the decal, but is a russet brown, and, for a while, I was confused as to why this was. Then, while examining the jacket for this project, I came across some very small traces of dye where the collar meets the liner.
28002FFB-66D4-41F5-A740-2835AC07F614.jpeg


This is the tell-tale sign of a re-dye. The liner likewise has a few traces of dye far away from the leather edge, including opposite where the nameplate once was, indicating that the name plate was added when the jacket was first issued, and removed prior to being redyed. The lighter, almost russet brown of this redye is less common than what we normally see but does show up from time to time. Despite being a redye, which, as Eastman has pointed out, tended to harm the leather, the shell of this jacket is in remarkable condition, and remains pliable. The fit is characterized on John Chapman’s website as “wide torso and comfortable shoulders/arms,” and this is spot on. I’d also note that, despite what ‘wide torso’ might imply, the jacket looks somewhat slender, making it the best of both worlds. It’s probably the most comfortable A-2 jacket I own, although it has an 80-year head start on my repros, so maybe it’s not fair to compare. While some contracts (Rough Wears, Cables) tend to have an ‘off the shoulder’ effect, the collar on this contract tends to hug your neck, which probably explains the patina. Finally, the sleeve length is among the most generous I’ve seen, and the ends of the knits tend to sit on the base of my thumbs when my arms are at my side.

B-Man2: To add on to Jan’s comments, the size 46 United is definitely a depot re-dye as you can see from the photograph of the over dye to the lining at the collar seam. As Jan had mentioned, in 1943, in an effort to establish a common color for the A2 Jacket, (there were a variety of russet colors out there and the USAAF wanted more uniformity) jackets were taken to depots and refurbished and re-dyed the dark seal color commonly seen on later A2 jackets, and at that time the USAAF Roundel was either water transferred or heat applied to the left shoulder of the jacket. The size 46 jacket fits me very comfortably, and as you will see when we take the measurements of these wartime jackets, the size 46 is generously cut for a wartime jacket.
Size 46

7F4B5402-83FD-4D6E-99B8-03928A5CC202.jpeg
AA17726F-83A4-441B-842D-4ACF4A151CD5.jpeg
Size 42
 
Last edited:

mulceber

Well-Known Member
Zipper:

Mulceber:
Eastman’s A-2 guide tells us that the United Sheeplined contract was made using Crown M-42 and Talon M-41 zippers. Obviously, this jacket is a bit of a problem then:
Size 42
74448319-5A75-48AB-B897-7F39F6380495.JPG


There are no signs of the zipper having been replaced, however, and as Chapman notes on his site, originals of this contract were also made with Conmars, so it seems Eastman (understandably) just hadn’t encountered any with this zipper. It makes sense that the company would have used such a wide range of zippers, though. United Sheeplined was part of a large conglomerate that included Spiewak and Bronco (which, incidentally, explains the shape of the pockets), so it makes sense that they had a diverse stock of materials.

B-Man2: The size 46 United has the Talon M-41 zipper as delineated in the contract and the Eastman Book and on the Good Wear website. The zipper is original to the jacket and works flawlessly after 78 years of faithful service.
Size 46
95B2D1DB-AB08-4E59-92B2-B00996C28CE3.JPG


Knits:

Mulceber
: The knits on mine are a pale brown, almost a dark tan, although I suspect they have faded with time. They are relatively thin, with a ribbed texture. Among modern repros, they are similar to Eastman knits in texture and thickness, and similar to everyone else’s knits in their shape. The waist knits are a bit loose, but after almost 80 years, I’d be surprised if they weren’t. To my knowledge, both the knit cuffs and the waist knits are original, although @Nnatalie darned a few knit holes when this jacket first arrived.

B-Man2: The knits on the size 46 are mid-brown and are also original to the jacket. The knits are sewn in with OD thread which is used in the construction of the jacket as well. There are a few minor moth nips on the waistband, but the cuffs have seen a bit more “moth combat.” I was able to stabilize the cuffs by using a method I explained elsewhere on the forum. This can be accomplished by taking a toothpick with a pin head of quick drying contact cement and placing it around the edges of the hole to bring the sides of the hole together and stopping the knits from further fraying. The technique works well with a little practice. With any original A2 jacket, my thoughts are to first try to save as much of the original parts of the jacket as possible through restoration, before replacing anything original to the jacket. I’ve seen many jackets advertized for sale as an “Original WWII A2 Jacket” however when you read the description it goes on to say that the knit waistband, knit cuffs, zipper, and lining have all been replaced. To my thinking that is not an original WWII A2 jacket, but a composition of a WWII jacket shell with repro parts attached. Just my opinion and not meant to demean any other jackets.
Size 42
06B84B3E-43D2-4BC2-8AEF-94790194D0F2.JPG

Size 46
462E3A19-82CE-4652-BD15-98015E4AB5FD.JPG


Pockets and Pocket Flaps:

B-man2:
The pockets of the United Sheeplined jackets are distinguishable in a couple of different ways. One of these is the angle cut in the lower corners of the pocket. Unlike several jackets that have a rounded edge to the lower pocket, the United pockets are angle cut, as if the corners of the pockets were cut off and then sewn to the body of the jacket. (See Photographs). The only other jackets that have this characteristic are the HBL Corporation contract A2 jacket from 1937 and the 1942 & 1943 Bronco contract jackets. Of course one might suspect that Bronco might have that design incorporated into their jackets, as the two companies were family owned at one point in time. Another tell-tale sign is the upside down Isosceles triangle attachment stitching to the upper corners of each pocket. The re-enforced stitching pattern really handles a great deal of force, while holding the attachment points of the pocket in place and keeps the pocket corners from tearing away from the body of the jacket.

Mulceber: Burt nailed the details of the United pockets. I’ll just add that the pockets on this contract differ from their cousins on the Bronco, in that the United pocket flaps are generally longer, even though the shape is similar. The leather running along the top of the left pocket on mine has an odd pattern imprinted, similar to that seen on the jacket’s epaulets, but is otherwise unremarkable. After posting this, we also noticed that the shape of the pocket flaps on our jackets are different. While the outside corners are the same, Burt's comes to a point, whereas mine is curved. Definitely a wartime variation.
Size 46
1F98BCE7-F1EE-43C0-9F50-8D154EA297DC.JPG

9D9376E5-7645-4374-987F-A5001A726D0C.JPG

Size 42
29262F8D-5CDE-4933-A240-E4FFE170DFD8.JPG

414D3C01-407D-40C3-B787-A1ECF9AB309B.JPG
 
Last edited:

mulceber

Well-Known Member
Lining:

B-Man2:
There’s nothing really remarkable about the lining material of the size 46 United jacket. It has the standard liner of that period, made from plain, course weave, rust brown cotton. It has the typical faded inspectors mark ink stamped on the liner. However, from various points around the interior collar lining and along the interior lining at the zipper box, there are the tell-tale signs of overlap from the depot re-dying process.

Mulceber: Yeah, there’s not a lot to say about the liner that hasn’t been said. It has the stains from the re-dye process that were noted above. It also differs from Burt’s in that both the size and a USAAF logo were stamped not far beneath the label, which is good, because the size tag that was affixed to the label is almost completely gone. I have no way of confirming this, but it strikes me as very possible that the size stamp was added because the tag was already missing in July of ’43.
Size 46
CC5B9B9A-2F2E-4562-9211-A64640DB9D52.JPG

B1B279AD-ACE9-42EC-A8A9-7B559A3AD8EB.JPG


Size 42
12266C5A-8A86-4746-97EF-35A5A14494FF.JPG

1F5CAFC2-BA32-42B0-928E-445F62C73EB8.JPG


Measurements of Both Wartime Production A2 Jackets

B-Man2:
We’ve included the measurements of both wartime production United Sheeplined A2 Jackets, so that anyone wanting to compare the current sizes of their reproduction A2’s can see the specs of original WWII sizes 42 & 46 A2 jackets .

Mulceber: Looking at the numbers here, the sizing isn’t like most A-2s I’ve seen. The chest progression is absolutely standard, increasing by 2 inches every size, but the back length appears to increase by a full inch every size. The sleeves, meanwhile, seems to increase by only a more normal quarter inch each size. Most repros I’ve seen seem to have the back and sleeve lengths increase in locked step at a quarter inch each size. The shoulders are also odd, in that mine measure 18.25 and Burt’s are a full 20, suggesting that a 44 would be…19 1/8? What all this suggests to me is not that the United Sheeplined had wonky sizing, but that sizing was inconsistent, and these jackets may have shrunk in unpredictable ways over the years.

Size 42

Shoulders……………18.25 inches

Chest………………….22 inches Pit to Pit

Back…………………..25 inches

Sleeves………………25.5 inches



Size 46

Shoulders…………….20 inches

Chest…………………..24 inches Pit to Pit

Back…………………….27 inches

Sleeves………………..26 inches


Conclusions:

Mulceber:
Well, we’ve basically run out of details to discuss on this contract. I hope this little passion project of ours has been fun for you all and the details haven’t been too dry. It’s been a blast for us comparing details on these jackets. I for one learned some things about my jacket and about A-2 contracts in general, that I didn’t know. I want to thank Burt for suggesting this topic idea, and for taking lead on it, and @Nnatalie for giving it a proofread once we’d worked out what we were going to say. Now, we get to turn it over to you guys. If any of you have originals or repros of this contract that you’d like to share and discuss (I’m looking at you, @Jorgeenriqueaguilera), we’d love to see your jacket.

B-Man2: For me, this has been a good way to take up some down time during the Pandemic. I want to thank Mulceber (Jan) for agreeing to partner up with me in this review of the United Sheeplined contract A2 jacket, and Natalie for her contribution and help editing it. Keep in mind that we live about 1100 miles from each other, so everything we did was done over the phone or thru emails or texting. We both hope that you guys will enjoy the posting and add to it with questions, information or photos of your jackets on this topic. So with that, we encourage all participation and thank you all for your time.
 
Last edited:

MikeyB-17

Well-Known Member
Fascinating reading and a lot of work there, well done Men! I find the United Sheeplined a particularly attractive design. Interesting that the hanger strip on Burt’s appears to have been redyed, something I wouldn’t have thought they would bother with. I also note that both have the imprinted marks in the pocket leather, which I suspect are made by the sewing machine, but I am no expert. It’s nice when we can get together and produce something positive, instead of getting all bent out of shape and bickering.
 

newagegeezer

Active Member
Excellent piece guys,what agreat way to keep sane during Covid times, and may I be the first to jump in with photos of my (reputed - no label) Sheeplined. Bought 40-50 years ago when originals could be picked up reasonably & so have had Dubows, Broncos, Monarchs, Aeros, all originals over the years. The knits appear to be original, with mothing , but no worse than when bought by me. Hopefully you can confirm.
Cheers anyway
 

Attachments

mulceber

Well-Known Member
Excellent piece guys,what agreat way to keep sane during Covid times, and may I be the first to jump in with photos of my (reputed - no label) Sheeplined. Bought 40-50 years ago when originals could be picked up reasonably & so have had Dubows, Broncos, Monarchs, Aeros, all originals over the years. The knits appear to be original, with mothing , but no worse than when bought by me. Hopefully you can confirm.
Cheers anyway
Nice, Newagegeezer! Looks like it to me: it's got the shoulder seam under the epaulet. Pocket flaps look the right shape too. Also, the double barrel eyelets with the eyelet passed through the fastener side. I'm pretty certain you're right and it is. The only thing I can't quite see is a clear view of the pockets. If it's got the beveled corners at the bottom, then it's definite.
 
Last edited:

B-Man2

Well-Known Member
Man!!. That’s a real Cadillac of an A2 you’ve got there. Awesome shape Geezer!. I’m no expert but it sure looks like a United to my old eyes. If you don’t mind please post some measurements on it so we can estimate the size of it. Thanks
 

mulceber

Well-Known Member
Agreed - the standard measurements would be great. What I also really like about this one is that Burt and I both have re-dyes (in varying shades). This looks like it's the original color.
 

B-Man2

Well-Known Member
Agree , this is not a re dye but the Russet color, the way it arrived from the United Sheeplined factory. Gorgeous color... Geezer .... with this kind of collection the only thing I want to ask is..... Where the hell you been? and please keep posting more of your collection. ;)
 

newagegeezer

Active Member
Thanks for the appreciation.....I meant to add a pocket photo... here 'tis and a couple more, I'm a 6 footer & 42-44 chest and it's roomy on me.. I only have 1 other A2 now, an original painted Bronco along with a LW Foster G1, H&L Block M422A, an Aero B6 , a B3 and an Irvin , all originals bought at least 40 years ago and a BR ANJ3A which I bought over 20 years ago and which I think is quite a rare beast (?) don't think it's been in their catalogue for a few years . I can put up some photos but isn't this thread just for Sheeplined ?
Cheers
 

Attachments

Top