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JUMP Campaign Seeks to Restore Rare Virginia Tech Corps of Cadets Uniform

The 1897 uniform carries the letters “VPI” in embroidered script on the collar. The design has never been repeated on a Corps of Cadets uniform.

There is only one known example of a Virginia Tech Corps of Cadets dress uniform produced in 1897 and worn by senior cadets for a single year.

The uniform, tattered and damaged by mold before it came into the Corps Museum collection, belonged to Col. John Samuel Adolphus Johnson, an 1898 graduate who went on to become the commandant of cadets and chair of the university’s Mechanical Arts Department for more than 25 years.

It is an important piece of university history because it marked the university’s name change to Virginia Polytechnic Institute from Virginia Agricultural and Mechanical College in 1897. It carries the letters “VPI” in embroidered script on the collar — a design that has never been repeated on the iconic blue dress uniform still worn by cadets today, said Corps Museum Curator Samantha Riggin.

“Not only is this uniform extremely rare for its design, it is one of the few, tangible pieces of history still in existence that marks a turning point for the university,” Riggin said.

The museum is using Virginia Tech’s crowdfunding platform, JUMP, to raise $10,000 for professional repair, restoration, and preservation of the uniform’s blouse, pants, and kepi hat for future generations.

“The uniform was the style that VPI President Julian Burruss, for whom Burruss Hall is named, wore his graduation year, adding to its significance,” Riggin said. “This is truly a one-of-a-kind find that must be preserved. If we do not, it will continue to disintegrate, eventually reaching a point beyond the scope of restoration.”

Once restored to its former glory, the uniform will have a prominent space in the new Corps Museum planned for the future Corps Leadership and Military Sciences Building on Upper Quad. It will fill a critical hole in the museum’s holdings, bolstering the scope of the collection, allowing the cadets and the public access to one more piece of the puzzle that tells the history of the Corps of Cadets.

In 1900, Johnson, then a major in the U.S. Army, was appointed assistant professor of mechanical engineering and also to the position of commandant. He served as commandant until 1906 and then finished out his career as chair of the Mechanical Arts Department.

The fundraising campaign will conclude on April 26.

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