Author Topic: Origin of "Fair Weather Christian"  (Read 3972 times)

Offline TIZWIN

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Origin of "Fair Weather Christian"
« on: March 15, 2006, 02:17:55 pm »
A big hello to my new pards.  I've been doing a little research on the development of cartridge belts in the military.  I've seen them referred to "prairie" belts and "pioneer" belts, which I can understand, but does anyone know where the term "fair weather christian" comes from as applied to these belts?  And does anyone know when they first started appearing?  It seems to me that the first ones had leather loops or "thimbles," then when the verdigris problem arose, the canvas loops came about.  My thinking is that it was the military that had these belts first, perhaps in the 1865-1867 period, and then civilians followed suit.  I propose that the military was first, since it was they who were most likely to be carrying self-contained cartridges in this period.  Any thoughts?

Offline St. George

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Re: Origin of "Fair Weather Christian"
« Reply #1 on: March 15, 2006, 05:59:58 pm »
From 'St. George's Notes XXIII - Cartridge Belt Loops' - with minor additions.


The cartridge belt followed on the heels of the self-contained cartridge - seeing limited use in the Civil War as an unauthorized accouterment to Henrys and Spencers.

In a letter to the Editor of the 'Army and Navy Journal' in 1869 - an anonymous Civil War veteran wrote the following:

"Long before the issue of the present breech-loader to the infantry, those of that corps who were detailed on temporary mounted duty would purchase a breech-loading gun of the Henry, Spencer or other pattern and make for themselves a belt, taking for a pattern that in use by the mountaineers or hunters in their midst. 
The men of entire regiments provided themselves with these belts when the new guns and ammuntion were issued to them;  and they made use of them when on escort duty, changing station, etc. etc.
The old, cumbersome cartridge box was packed up in the same ignominius way in which the old Army hats were carried when changing station.
This is true of the men of the regiments occupying the Powder River country from 1866 to 1868 and who had as good an opportunity to test the matter as any regiments in service during those years."

Remember - civilians often copied that which they saw the Army use - so as breech-loaders and revolvers made their way into the West - 'working' designs would be copied in a commercial manner.

As to the name - 'Fair Weather Christian' - no idea - since none of my references mention one particular individual as the originator.

This pre-1876 belt did feature leather loops - and verdigris did become a problem - given that there was a chemical reaction between the tanning solution and the then-copper case of the .45-70.

Once the Army adopted the belt and began its manufacture at Watervliet Arsenal - it thus gained it's 'nomenclature' of 'Model 1876 Cartridge Belt'.

The adoption of woven loops did much to eliminate the corrosion problem.

This belt - in several variations - would serve until the adoption of the 'Woven Cartridge Belt - Model of 1880' - the familiar 'Mills Belt'.


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Offline Two Flints

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Re: Origin of "Fair Weather Christian"
« Reply #2 on: March 16, 2006, 10:45:31 am »
I'm gonna give this a try and it is my own interpretation as to how the expression "fair weather Christian" belts came to be used.  I apologize up front, if my ideas are too far fetched to be accepted ;D ;D and you have my permission to take me to the nearest hanging tree :o :o

The photo below shows a design by quartermaster Christian S. Storms of New York N.Y.; his cartridge box/case was used by the military during the Civil War. It's called the Christian S. Storms cartridge box.

But, soldiers may have discovered that creating a belt with loops or thimbles made carrying their ammo more convenient.  And just maybe ::) ::) as a "play on words" they called these new loop or thimble style belts (shown below) fair weather Christian belts as a pun ??? ??? to the previously used Christian S. Storms cartridge box :-\ :-\ :-\  Get it???  Storms vs fair weather!!!!

 :-\ :-\ :-\

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Offline US Scout

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Re: Origin of "Fair Weather Christian"
« Reply #3 on: March 16, 2006, 04:28:16 pm »
I found the following description in a quick search.

We are probably all familiar with the expression "fair weather friends." These are people who are friendly only during good times. Their loyalty melts during times of adversity.

Some people could be classified as "fair weather Christians" for the same reason. Their commitment to God does not withstand hard times. Years ago, a man in a congregation I pastored told me, "I am in this church because things have always gone well for me. But if that ever changes, I am out of here." This is a classic example of a fair weather Christian. His loyalty was conditional upon things going well for him.

19th century Americans were very religious and it was an insult to call someone a "fair weather Christian."  Perhaps because the cartridge belt was a non-standard, non-regulation piece of equipment, someone used a derogatory term to describe it or someone who used it. 

That isn't to say soldiers didn't like the belt (regulations or not), just that it wasn't officially sanctioned by the Army.

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Offline Luke MacGillie

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Re: Origin of "Fair Weather Christian"
« Reply #4 on: March 17, 2006, 03:11:25 pm »
My understanding, and I cant back it up with one ounce of proof is that using the belt, especially after having rounds in it for a long time, and the ensuing ruckus it would cause jamming up your gun, reduced the troops to being "Fair Weather Christans" in that they would be cussing and a swearing ect.


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Re: Origin of "Fair Weather Christian"
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