Kentucky Colonel Uniforms (Civilian & Military)
The Kentucky Colonel much like the Emperor, has no clothes, but a Kentucky Colonel is certainly not a colonel without clothing nor through the impersonation of a mythical ideal or fictitious character, because it would be a disgrace to the Office of the Colonelcy and the Honorable Title, unless being done to garner attention in farce. If there is a such thing as an "Official Kentucky Colonel Uniform" we would have been first to know about it. This is not to say that Kentucky colonels did not wear costumes, distinctive clothing and uniforms.
A Uniform Does Not a Colonel Make or Does It?
Kentucky Colonelcy holds its roots in Colonial America when the colonels (heads of colony) took stock in their freedom and patriotism to remove the foreign influence of a repressive regime of taxation and sovereign authority over the American colonies. The (native sons) of the Americas many of whom were colonels born here, began the removal of the British in 1774. Within the next 25 years these colonels had liberated American from the British and established treaties eliminating their role as colonels through the introduction of a civilian state (sovereign republic). During those years colonels held all the power and authority they could wield to accomplish their Most Honorable Order, "establish law and order in the eyes of a civil government". Colonels in-fact came from 13 colonies to Kentucky starting in 1780, within 10 years there were colonels of all shapes and sizes retiring to Kentucky after the liberation of America from the Monarchy based on land warrants as pay for participating in the American Revolution, some had uniforms and some did not, there were colonels from New Jersey to Georgia headed to Kentucky to meet the great Col. Daniel Boone, who was at that time a living legend.
In the 1800s Kentucky's Governors, commissioned civilian "Colonels" as their honor guard for all those who present themselves to the office of the Governor. Some governors did not have colonels, some had an aide-de-camp, some had colonels that were an aide-de-camp and some just had a dog to watch their front door. These few colonels that were designated by the governors most likely had uniforms and the descriptions for them most likely are in the archives of the state somewhere unless they were burnt in one of the fires at the capitol in the 1800s. Kentucky state government has built four capitols in Frankfort. Fire destroyed the first two. The third, known today as the Old State Capitol, is open as a museum, the new one was inaugurated in 1910.
In the 1920's Kentucky Colonelcy took on a new dimension and popularity with the silent-movie, "The Kentucky Colonel" starring Joseph J. Dowling based on the popular best-selling American novel "A Kentucky Colonel" by Opie Read written 30 years previously.
William Frederick Cody (1846-1917) gained renown as a U.S. army scout leading settlers to the West, many people credit his look the style of the Kentucky Colonel..
Honorable Order of the Blue Goose International (1939)
These guys really dressed the part, straw hat, string tie, split tail coat with all the senior members with moustaches and goatees. Considering when this group of gentlemen started in 1917, it appears the name "Honorable Order of Kentucky Colonels" in 1933 is a name that was based on these Kentucky colonels from the Honorable Order of the Blue Goose?
About Kentucky Colonel Uniforms
A civilian colonel may dress any way they like that is respectable and becomes their office with the duties being carried out with great respect for the moral fiber of our society, how a colonel dresses themselves must conform with the norms of society and may be emboldened, but never using a costume or impersonating another individual. There are certain items of clothing that have become stereotypical such as the string tie, wide brim hat, and goatee on some men (fact: there were more colonels without goatees); however aside from that just be natural.
Use of a Military Uniform has no Official Capacity
One mythical militia commander in Canada, Col. Stephen Lautens invented a dress uniform for his 1813 colonel chapter based on a United States Army Colonel uniform from the late 1800s, it is strikingly similar to the official Commonwealth of Virginia Colonel uniform of 1897, it does not belong to the Kentucky Colonel, nor is it official in anyway. A Colonel Uniform is certainly not the uniform (costume) created by Colonel Harland Sanders of Kentucky Fried Chickens or the Lauten's Canadian Kentucky Colonels in Toronto based on the warped idea of a Command of Kentucky Colonels supporting Kentucky's Traditions using a restyled Post Civil War US Military Uniform under the authority of a General in Kentucky in-charge of a fictitious militia of colonels.
The Governor's Honor Guard Uniform
Various Governor's in addition to knowing and having "colonels" nearly everywhere in counties across the vast landscape of early Kentucky, had an Honor Guard which were called "colonels" despite not having the required military experience or training. We also know that President Lincoln authorized Col. John Marshall Harlan to commission 1,000 civilian uniformed officers throughout Kentucky. It is believed that William O'Connell Bradley received one of these commissions; combined with the release of the Opie Read best-seller, and people talking about colonels at the World's Fair in Chicago, in 1896 Governor W.O. Bradley made the commissioning of Colonels a civilian office based on contributions to the state's prosperity. During Bradley's term in office he recognized over 300 colonels in the Commonwealth.
Governor W.O. Bradley and the Kentucky Colonels