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MODEL 1889 US ARMY SUMMER HELMET – SOLDIER WHITENED - VERY NICE SOLID SPECIMEN:  One of the classic pieces of Indian War headgear, this Model 1889 US Army Summer Helmet has survived in very nice solid condition.  Probably best known for their issue to the soldiers in the Southwest during the Apache Wars, in fact these helmets eventually saw wide distribution throughout the army’s installations as a standard issue relieving the soldiers of their heavy and hot woolen headwear.   

The Model 1880 US Army Summer Helmet was manufactured in white, but was specifically criticized by officers for the way in which the white color stood out when worn in the field.  When the helmet was redesigned and issued as the Model 1889 Summer Helmet, the army responded to the complaints by manufacturing it in khaki drab, foolishly believing it is possible to make everyone happy.  Viewed in the context of the times, it worth noting that these helmets were issued and worn by US soldiers during the waning years of the Victorian Age, a period when British soldiers were wearing bright white pith helmets in tropical climates – accenting their uniforms in a way familiar to all of us who have viewed the movie “ZULU”.   

No doubt, US Army officers wanted their troops to reflect the same level of style as that exhibited by the British, and our officers had the ability, if not the permission, to make it so.  A simple application of a white clay based coloring – probably similar to the white dressing which was used years ago by the dragoons to color their straps and accoutrements – rendered the drab khaki helmets a bright white.  Worn with the dark blue blouse and the white cotton trousers already a standard issue to the US soldiers, these whitened helmets were a natural addition to complete a full head to toe summer uniform at the frontier posts across the southern United States and in tropical posts around the world.   

The body of this helmet still retains its full shape with no damage or crushing to the crown or the brim, and it retains the original vent top.  As described above, the outer cotton khaki covering has been whitened at one time, though the majority of the whiting has worn away.  The covering is intact with no wear spots or tears, all of the seams are intact and the material is overall clean with minimal signs of age and storage.  The inner lining of crown is fully intact with no heavy stains or wear.  The green linen lining on the underside of the brim is intact and very clean with none of the substantial separation of the weave as is so often seen.  The leather sweat band is in very good condition and all of the cork mounting discs are present, as are the two brass chin strap hooks, the round paper size tag and the round hat maker’s union tag.  The inside of the sweat band is ink stamped with a patent banner, indicating the manufactured by the William Horstmann Company.     

This helmet retains a partial segment of the original white patent leather chin strap, complete with the brass adjustment buckle.  These white leather chin straps were not particularly robust and they did not survive well in storage, often simply disintegrating to dust in such places as Bannerman’s Island.  In spite of its age, the chin strap segment retains the white enameled finish to the leather.  The rarity of these white chin straps cannot be overstated and they are simply not found on the loose anymore.  Finding this segment still with the helmet is an added value, and should you be handy, there is enough of the strap present that using it as a pattern, you could make a copy to display with the helmet.    

This is a very nice example of one of the more unusual pieces of US Army headwear from the Indian War and Spanish American War periods, and it presents as it was issued and worn by the frontier soldiers.   (0345)  $450



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