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Guide to the Charles M. Lefferts Military Uniforms Print Collection
1873-1926 (bulk 1900-1926)
 PR 99

New-York Historical Society
170 Central Park West
New York, NY 10024
(212) 873-3400


New-York Historical Society

Collection processed by Emily Wolff; Larry Weimer (2021)

This finding aid was produced using ArchivesSpace on December 28, 2021
The finding aid is written in English using Describing Archives: A Content Standard

Biographical Note

Charles MacKubin Lefferts was born in New York City on April 19, 1873, the son of Marshall Lefferts, Jr., and Clara Walker Fay Lefferts. On his mother's side he was a descendant of Captain Josiah Fay of Ward's Massachusetts Regiment in the American Revolutionary War.

Lefferts was always keenly interested in military affairs. In 1893 he enlisted as a private in the 7th Regiment National Guard, State of New York, and served five years before being honorably discharged. He re-enlisted for one year in 1901. With the outbreak of World War I, Lefferts wanted to fight for his country but his age prevented him from serving in the ranks in France. He re-enlisted for federal service in 1917 and served until 1921 rising to the rank of Lieutenant. The year of his retirement he received a state decoration for long and faithful service.

Other than a brief engagement as a salesman for the American Woolen Company, Lefferts dedicated most of his life outside the military to the study of the uniforms worn in the American Revolutionary War. He was a tireless researcher, devoted to the accuracy of his descriptions and illustrations. Lefferts was a self-taught artist with natural capabilities, but he hoped his images would be judged according to the information they contained rather than their aesthetic qualities. He began with the study of the British army in America, which he contended was always his primary interest. With time, however, the scope of his project grew to include four countries involved in the war and all the variations of military dress. For nearly thirty years, he searched archives in England, France, Germany, and United States, gathering details of the great variety of uniforms worn by the various armies for different purposes throughout the war.

Lefferts was elected a member of The New-York Historical Society in 1909. Recognizing the value of his knowledge, the Society requested that he produce a series of illustrations based on his research. Lefferts died at Port Washington, Long Island on March 17, 1923. The New-York Historical Society published his images and descriptions three years later under the title Uniforms of the Armies in the War of the American Revolution, 1775-1783.