A GUIDE BOOK TO U.S. ARMY DRESS HELMETS: 1872-1904
Author: Mark Kasal & Don Moore
Publisher: North Cape Publications, Mar 2004
Describes both the Model 1872 and Model 1881 dress helmets in exhaustive detail. Tells how to determine which parts are real & which are repros; also how to clean, restore & care for helmets & tips on finding collectable helmets & parts at shows & on the internet.
In 1872, the Franco-Prussian War had recently ended leaving the new German nation the strongest military power on the continent. So impressed were the worlds military officials with the lightning-quick German military victory that almost overnight French influence on tactics and uniforms was replaced with a strong Germanic flavor.
The United States Army and its leaders were no exception. In the midst of developing and adopting a new uniform for officers and enlisted men, the Prussian influence was most evident in the new dress helmet issued in 1871. It had a high crown with a rudimentary front brim and a sloping rear brim that quickly earned the nickname, lobstertail. It was crowned with a spike for foot troops or a horsehair plume for mounted men. It looked so much like a German dress helmet of the time that the U.S. Army military attache to the American Embassy in Paris was booed on the streets by Parisians who thought he was a German officer.
The M1872 Dress Helmet has intrigued collectors and military historians ever since. It was one of the most colorful dress helmets ever worn by American Army troops. Cavalry plumes and cords were a lemon yellow color and the plumes dangled well below the rear brim. A plaited cord was attached to the helmet and looped around the shoulders and chest to keep the helmet from being lost when mounted on horseback or in a high wind. Artillery troops wore bright red cords and plumes or polished spikes and Signal Corps soldiers wore orange and white later, all black cords and plumes. Even the Corps of Indian Scouts had their own distinctive white and red cords and plumes.
In 1881, the height of the crown and the length of the rear brim were reduced to make the helmet more comfortable to wear. Other branches and units of the Army received permission to "customize" their helmets with their own distinctive insignia, expanding the variations available to the delight of collectors nearly a hundred years later.
The decorative helmets were worn by the U.S. Army including such notables as George Custer, John J. Pershing, Phil Sheridan, James W Forsyth, William T. Sherman, Alfred Terry, Ranald McKenzie, Nelson Miles and even Tom Mix til 1904 when they were replaced in that year by a flat, peaked cap and much of the pomp and color went out of the military.
A Guide Book to U.S. Army Dress Helmets 1872 to 1904 describes both the Model 1872 and Model 1881 dress helmets in exhaustive detail. Separate chapters describe reproduction helmets and helmet parts which have appeared over the past several decades and tells how to determine which parts are real and which are reproductions; also how to clean, restore and care for helmets and tips on finding collectable helmets and parts at shows and on the internet. Numerous photos of helmets and helmet parts are included as are eight full pages of color plates showing correct enlisted and officers helmets for study. Also included is an extensive gallery of period photographs showing the helmets as worn by troops of the time.