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Officer's model 1881 dress helmet


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#1 cap_george

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Posted 11 December 2012 - 08:46 AM

Hello all, I just bought this Officer's 1881 dress helmet. It is missing the chin chain and plume top. It is a Bent & Bush with a Staff Eagle. From the shape of the helmet I believe it is a cut down model 1872. Any comments would be appreciated. I have a question tho - since it is a staff Officer would it have the black plume? Thanks
helmet1.jpg
helmet3.jpg

Edited by cap_george, 11 December 2012 - 08:48 AM.


#2 KurtA

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Posted 11 December 2012 - 02:11 PM

It’s difficult to make observations based on the limited photos (the photos provided omit many important views and features of the helmet). However, it does not appear to be a cut-down M1872, based on the seam on the front visor. The M1872’s had a one-piece felt covering - there was no front seam on these (or side, or back seams). Plus, they did not have that type lining. Should have a plain uncovered interior (i.e., no silk) with a round paper Bent & Bush label. Based on the elaborate lining, I would say you probably have an M1881 officer’s helmet body made for private purchase by officers.
That staff eagle plate is for an enlisted man. Officers didn’t use this style plate (i.e., no crossed guns, cannons, or swords). Infantry, Artillery, and Cavalry Staff Officers would wear the front plates of their branch on their helmets. For a very limited time, Signal Corps Officers used a plate with crossed torches behind the shield. But, that didn’t last long and they switched to wearing the Chapeau, which was worn by staff and general officers. Those officers did not wear the M1881 Helmet.
What are the buttons on the side of the helmet? If they are crossed guns, that would give you the most likely ability to obtain the missing parts (two piece Infantry Officer plate and a spike, as worn by unmounted officers). Cavalry and Artillery Officer 2 piece plates (the shield with crossed swords/cannons is a separate piece) are much tougher to find and the officer plumes (frizzy yak hair, as opposed to smooth horse hair of enlisted plumes) are even more difficult to find.
Others on the forum are more "into" headgear of this period, so perhaps they can add to (or correct) what I have written.

Edited by KurtA, 11 December 2012 - 02:15 PM.


#3 ludwigh1980

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Posted 11 December 2012 - 11:47 PM

I concur with KurtA. Appears to be a private purchase officers M1881. The plume and base for officers helmets are quite difficult to attain. The cording on this example as not as heavily knoted as other regulation examples I have seen. Might have belonged to a state militia or national guard officer. They were a bit more lax on the eagle types and I have seen some with the one piece eagle. The Eagle on this example is a nice deaply struck example and better than many enlisted examples I have seen.
Neat helmet.
Of course a officers name in the helmet might shed some light on its history.
Terry in Colorado

#4 cap_george

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Posted 13 December 2012 - 08:38 PM

Thank you both for replying. I have own a cut down Bent & Bush - you are correct about the label. But that was an enlisted man's helmet (also it had had a material covering over the felt on the out side added). It was a Light Artillery Officer's Helmet. Almost all Officer's had to buy their own uniforms - they had more fancy style helmets. As for the cut down 1872 I was refering to the shape of the helmet (from bottom view) - this is very untypical shape and looks like the 1872 Bent & Bush, it was still an Officer's helmet and followed the regulations - cork or felt helmet covered in wool material. The side buttons are
Massachusetts National Guard. As for the eagle plates Yes Infantry, Cavalry and Artillery plates, all other Staff had - Staff Plates (no weapons). - Yes Infantry Field Grade Officers - White plumes, Infantry plate, Company Grade Infantry Officer - Black Plume, Infantry plate, Cavalry Officers Yellow plume Cavalry plate, Light Artillery Red plume Artillery plate, Heavy Artillery Black Plume with Artillery plate. There could be more than Infantry, Cavalry, and Artillery on the Staff, so the staff eagle was used by Officers as well (these were not two piece construction for obvious reasons). Here are two more photos. By the way - I have the complete top plume assembly (enlisted cavalry) coming), already have the black kinky plume, and can get a British made 5/8" chin chain for $40.00. Cheers Captain Albert
helmet2.jpg
helmet4.jpg

#5 Pointedcuffs

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Posted 13 December 2012 - 09:28 PM

I have to agree with the others, this does not appear to be a cut down. As far as the staff plate, officers did not wear this style plate. They would of had the appropriate department insignia on the plates of their combat branch. All other Staff officers would of worn the chapeau.

#6 cap_george

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Posted 13 December 2012 - 09:59 PM

Well I will see if the plate has been altered or replaced, when the helmet arrives. But since it is a National Guard Helment - it is a possible plate, It is hard to say with the State side buttons. Thanks for the comments - real things to think about (the helmet was not too costly, thank God). George

#7 KurtA

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Posted 14 December 2012 - 04:36 AM

The comments I posted revolved around it being a Federal helmet. Since it appears to be Mass NG, all the normal "rules" are out the window. It could very well be "as worn" in the Mass NG. You might investigate to see if Massachusetts maintains some sort of NG museum. If so, their archives may have period photos of this helmet in use. And then you can restore it exactly as it should be.
As Terry stated, that Staff Plate is a really nice one. Much higher relief than typically seen.

#8 cap_george

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Posted 14 December 2012 - 03:46 PM

Thank you all again - especially Kurta. That was my thought all along - National Guard is sometimes a different animal. I will try to research it. I really think it had a black plume - like Company grade Infantry officer's on regimental staffs, I've seen a few with the fuzzy black plumes. They were always Infantry. Also sorry for not responding sooner - since I am not a paid member - the system does not show replies to my post (not nice!). George

#9 cap_george

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Posted 17 December 2012 - 03:46 PM

Well the helmet arrived today - it is made out of very thin pressed felt, covered on the outside with black drill, and some kind of grayish felt on the inside. The cords were sewn down (that's why over the years they have losen up). This helmet has not been messed with except the missing plume and holder. I am almost positive this is a cut down and recycled Bent & Bush helmet. Captain george

#10 Redlegwolf

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Posted 11 August 2014 - 05:43 AM

So, as a late follow up--is the helmet cork?  All the M1872s were pressed felt, so I agree with the assessment that it is a M1881 through and through.  That being said--a great find!

 

I have found that many National Guard units enlisted wore a lot of what would seem to be RA trimmings, but I have always seen it with their branch colored suspension.  Regardless, a beautiful find. Did you ever put an overlay on it?

 

v/r

Wolf




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