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M1881 Infantry Dress Helmet


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Hmmmmmm -- this appears to be an officer's helmet, but the cords shown would be for a mounted helmet. An additional bullion cord would have gone from the left side of the helmet down to the shoulder area, looping under the shoulder loops and across the chest, though these were sometimes made in two pieces so the helmet cold be detached. A mounted helmet should have a plume holder and plume instead of a spike. There should also be a chinstrap with brass links sewn to a black leather backing.

 

I suspect someone has assembled this one from parts. Note that the spike and base do not match the patina of the front plate.

 

I suspect the missing cork in the back could be made less noticible with a proper fitting styrofoam head..

 

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  • 3 weeks later...

Thanks Wolf. I took the helmet to the Ohio Valley Militaria Show and met Gil, as well as several other experts he recommended. I learned a lot.

 

I am totally jazzed about this forum, the moderators, and it's members who make it an irreplaceable storehouse of knowledge!

 

THANK YOU!!!!!!

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Over time I have come to the conclusion that 98% of all US Army M1881 dress helmets are put-togethers or, to be polite, "restored" from old parts and to varying degrees of accuracy. This goes for those in museums and in private collections.

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  • 7 months later...

As a follow up tab--I can tell you that there are more compete original officer's helmets by far than enlisted helmets--Officers privately purchased their gear and took it home. Enlisted were issued and did not; almost counterintuitive since there were so many more enlisted than officer.

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As a follow up tab--I can tell you that there are more compete original officer's helmets by far than enlisted helmets--Officers privately purchased their gear and took it home. Enlisted were issued and did not; almost counterintuitive since there were so many more enlisted than officer.

 

Agree. And bottom line - a complete Federal helmet that was actually used (officer or enlisted) is very tough to find.

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  • 3 years later...
  • 1 year later...

There is an interesting helmet for sale on e-Bay.  It is an early M1881 body style but with the M1872 eagle plate & plume socket, as well as the chain-link rosette side buttons for the chin chain (all with heavy white-gold gilt).  Heavy gold braided cords on the helmet.  It has 2 stars affixed to the front of the eagle plate, and the name Nelson A. Miles embossed in gold on the inside of the helmet.  It has a white feather plume in the M1872 plume holder, rather than the authorized yak tail plume. Regular cloth lining found in officer's helmets of the period.

 

This could be dismissed out of hand, as the 1881 uniform regulations said that the new model helmet was for wear by all personnel except general officers and general staff officers -- but for a couple of tantalizing details. 

 

The first is that then-Colonel Nelson A. Miles headed up the 1878-79 Army Equipment Board that recommended what became the M1881 helmet, and he remained engaged in the process of approving that helmet over the next several years.

 

The second is that the first samples of the "new" helmet (made both by Henry V. Allien and and Horstman) used the M1872 helmet plate and plume holder for the officer's model -- and the QM Depot cut down / repurposed existing M1872 version helmets to correspond to the new regulation.

 

The third is that at least one of the initial photographs of the "new" helmet showed the chain-link rosette buttons and the M1872 plume / spike holder on top.

 

Is it possible that Colonel Miles kept an early model and had it modified when he became a general officer (BG in Dec 1880 and MG in Apr 1890)?

 

As mentioned above, Brevet MG Judson Kilpatrick (USMA '61) had one of the summer white helmets made up with two stars and rooster feathers for wear with his diplomatic uniform when he served as Minister (Ambassador) to Chile from May-December 1881.  Generals were (and still are) given leeway in their own uniforms. 

 

I've seen photos of MG Miles wearing the regulation chapeau with his full-dress uniform and MG Miles wearing the M1895 full-dress visor cap with the full-dress uniform.  Wonder if he kept/modified an early model of the helmet.  If this helmet is authentic, then it is unique in every sense of that word. 

MG Nelson A Miles helmet 1.jpg

MG Nelson A Miles helmet 2.jpg

MG Nelson A Miles helmet 3.jpg

MG Nelson A Miles helmet 4.jpg

MG Nelson A Miles helmet 5.jpg

MG Nelson A Miles in full dress uniform with chapeau.jpg

MG Nelson A Miles in full dress uniform with M1895 visor cap.jpg

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Noticed that MG Miles is wearing his old colonel's overcoat in both photos (with 5 rows of braid on the sleeve) and a non-regulation sword belt / slings.  He also has a distinctive collar trim on the second photo.  You cannot see the cuff braid in that photo.

 

In the painting below of LTG Miles, he has clearly designed his own cuff and collar braid, and his own shoulder knots.

 

In the second photo, LTG Miles is wearing a unique white M1902 visor cap (with just two stars above the eagle, even though he was a 3-star at that point) with his full-dress blue uniform.

 

In the third photo, LTG Miles is wearing a unique blue M1902 visor cap (with three stars above the eagle).

 

He clearly didn't have any objection to designing his own unique uniform items.

LTG Nelson A. Miles.jpg

LTG Nelson A. Miles wearing a white hat with the blue full-dress uniform.jpg

LTG Nelson A. Miles wearing a blue M1902 hat.jpg

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A good view of the motto at the top of the helmet plate could end any debate.  If a restrike, then the entire helmet is indeed crap.  

Why would Nelson see the need to have his name embossed inside?   It's not like any other officer at the O-Club would mistakenly take the wrong lid off the hat rack.

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This was sold at Morphy auction November 2018, part of the Bentley collection. It was cataloged (by me) as a fake - which is is. The collection had hundreds, yes hundreds, of hats, helmets, binoculars and briefcases with spurious names added, Eisenhower, Bradly, Patton - lots of them, CMOH winners etc. He bought this junk over a number of years and was told by many knowledgeable dealers and collectors that the material had problems.  Here is a link to the listing:

https://auctions.morphyauctions.com/INDIAN_WARS_PERIOD_NON_REGULATION_OFFICER_S_DRESS_-LOT452938.aspx

Please check out my militaria sales website;


Griffin Militaria

 

 

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