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PATTERN 1885 INFANTRY BAND ENLISTED MAN’S DRESS HELMET – COMPLETE WITH CORRECT PLUME AND FULL SET OF HELMET AND CHEST CORDS - A RARE SPECIMEN IN EXCELLENT CONDITION:  Beginning in October of 1885, the army authorized all regimental bands to wear the plumed helmets which had been previously reserved for only the mounted soldiers.  For the cavalry and light artillery regiments this involved little, if any change except for the addition of the silver musician’s “lyre” device worn in the center of the helmet eagle plate instead of the regimental numeral.  However, for the infantry regiments, this new helmet was a complete departure from the previously worn spike topped dismounted helmet.  The new pattern Infantry Band Helmet featured a newly adopted plume and a full set of helmet and chest cords as had been worn by the mounted soldiers, both in the infantry color of branch - white. 

Despite the twenty-five regiments of infantry in existence during the Indian Wars, these Infantry Band Helmets are quite rare.  As detailed in period army regulations and confirmed by surviving photographs, each infantry regiment band was limited to twenty musicians.  Assuming that all twenty-five regiments maintained a full allowance of musicians (note that full strength rosters were seldom recorded in the Indian Wars regiments) the total Infantry Band helmets would have been limited at any one time to five hundred.  As the dress helmet was regarded as “company property” rather than “personal issue”, as musicians left the service and were replaced the same helmet may have been issued to more than one soldier further limiting the number of these helmets that would have been produced.  Factoring in those helmets lost to wear, damaged in storage, sold to and consumed in civilian marching bands, and the passage of time; surviving examples of this helmet seldom appear except in the most advanced collections of U.S. Army headgear.    



The bandsmen were an important element of the efforts to maintain the morale of the troops, performing on the parade ground, at social events for soldiers and civilians alike, and on a daily basis to provide an ambient distraction from the dreary routine around the post.  Due to the small number of musicians who staffed these regimental bands, much of their contribution to the daily life of the soldiers who were posted in the remote reaches of the American West during the Indian Wars has passed unnoticed, albeit unfairly. 

One other characteristic which is unique to these Infantry Band Helmets is worthy of comment and note.  Army regulations allowed the regiment commanders, nominally a colonel, to make such changes or additions to the band’s uniform and helmets as he saw fit and the degree to which the colonels exercised their considerable prerogative of rank is well documented by surviving specimens and in period photographs.  As this latitude impacted the helmets, any number of variations were possible, three of which are shown below in a photograph from Brass Spikes and Horsetail Plumes by Gordon Chappell.  From left to right: a plumed helmet with no cords and no provision for attaching cords; a spike topped helmet with a full set of white helmet and chest cords; and finally a fully dressed helmet with the white plume and draped with the white helmet and chest cords.

This specimen of the Pattern 1885 Enlisted Man’s Infantry Band Dress Helmet is in excellent condition.  Complete with all of the original correct trimmings and insignia, to include the plume, plume holder, infantry side buttons, rings, the proper infantry eagle plate with the German silver Musicians insignia overlay, and of course an excellent helmet body.  

The musician “lyre” overlay on the infantry enlisted man’s eagle plate and the infantry insignia on the side buttons is the correct insignia configuration as these helmets were adopted in 1885.   

The helmet body is full form with no crushing, breakage, or loss of finish.  There is no damage other than a small separation on the underside of the brim.  The inside surface of the sweat band retains the legible maker’s contract stamp – “ Wm. H. HORSTMANN CO., PHILADELPHIA”.    

It is also worth mentioning that the leather chin straps for these helmets are virtually non-existent on the market as they did not survive well in storage, so that this helmet retains its chin strap in full form and length is a definite added value.   

The original plume and set of cords on this helmet are in excellent condition.  The plume falls gracefully over the helmet with no tangles.  The cords are complete with all the trimmings and both sets of waffles and tassels, and the cords have a clean, unstained color.  There are a few snags on the chest cords, likely from being abraded by the musician’s brass instrument as he performed.    

This is an outstanding example of the relatively rare Pattern 1885 Infantry Band Plumed Dress Helmet of a quality seldom encountered on today’s market and it is one that would deserve to be displayed as a centerpiece in your collection.  (0110)  $2875



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