In late 2004, a
pickelhaube sold in a small auction house in New
York. This was an incredibly unique pickelhaube.
Competition for the piece was fierce, and the
final price was much higher than almost anyone
expected. We are all familiar with American
pattern spiked helmets. This is not one of
them. It was a German style pickelhaube with an
American front plate. It is original, not
modern, not faked, in pristine condition,
probably never worn, and I have no idea what it
was for. It could have been a prototype. It
certainly wasn't worn much if at all. But
somebody went through a great deal of expense to
create this. The way wappen were made required
the creation of a die that stamped the wappen
from two directions. This was by no means
inexpensive and was designed to literally stamp
out thousands of helmet plates. The original
version of this article brought two more American
pickelhaube to the surface. Lately after
this was published in Military Trader, The de
Quesada collection provided more expertise and
models of these militia helmets. First let's look at the
This helmet has
all the characteristics of an M91 type private
purchase German pickelhaube for an officer. The
spike, only 9 cm high has the two rings common
with officer ones. It has an officer style
spike base with two ventilation holes. It has
a round base held in place by four star studs.
There are chin scales reinforced with leather,
split brad rosettes, thin, private purchase
visor trim, officers
type rear spine, and very good liner and
leather. The helmet plate is obviously fire
Also known as a
ghost, this is the impression left by the helmet
plate on the body of the helmet. Especially
around the head, this impression is quite deep.
This is what collectors call a perfect match
between the plate and a helmet. This was the
original plate for this body.
You can see here
the rear spine, and that the spiked unscrews.
The threads on the spike are very coarse.
There is only one cockade on the
right hand side of the helmet. It is non-serrated and 55 mm wide. This is very similar
of course to a German cockade but a non-serrated
type, would almost point towards it being
non-Prussian in heritage. It would be nice to
imagine that this was red white and blue. The
reality of it is that it's more like red black
and blue. Even with Saxon gray, which often
substitutes for white, this is not gray. It is
black. Same kind of chin scales as a German
Same kind of officer rosette with
the same measurements.
Here you see the
start of a liner on the inside that has a German
hat size written in pencil. The liner top is
made out of a heavy-duty silk. The sweat band
is a very high quality, but unmarked leather.
The visor bottoms
are covered in high-quality colorings. What is
really amazing is that the leather of the visors
has absolutely zero crazing or heat bubbles or
any marks of any kind. They are almost
It appears as
though the Spike base plate underneath has been
removed at some point. One washer is missing
and one post is missing both the washer and
nut. You can see that the plate is not directly
centered below the spike hole. The off-center
nature of this appears to be a manufacturing
issue and has no real impact at all.
The back of the
wappen has two screw posts with old solder. The
fire gilding is evident on the back.
Now we start to
get to theories. Look at the front of this
wappen. An American eagle, head turned one
direction, oak leaves in one hand,
arrows in another.
Head pointed the direction of the arrows. This
is an amazingly striking resemblance with the
rank insignia of an American Colonel up through
the First World War. American colonels wore a
very similar spread wing eagle as their rank
This is a picture all of an American colonel's insignia from his collar used in the early 1900's.
You'll notice the
spread wing eagle with the head turned and one
hand holding olive leaves and the other hand
holding arrows. If the head is turned the
direction of the arrows the nation is at war.
If the head is turned the direction of the olive
leaves the nation is at peace. This is a war
eagle. This head turning style went out after
the First World War. Today's eagle is not
nearly as detailed and much more politically
correct, always looking at the olive leaves.
If you take a look
at the helmet plate you will see that it is a
war eagle. This brings us to the second
helmet. It is an enlisted helmet with a parade
plume. It came with a couple of pictures,
including one of an American soldier wearing a
pickelhaube. These are more like postcard
cartoons, not photographs.
This is an
enlisted version of the helmet. There are
several key differences when compared to the
officers helmet. The
officers helmet appears to be completely German
made with all German parts. Everything that you
can consider is German in nature. It is an
identical replica of a German
officers helmet with
an American wappen. This helmet has an issue
liner, a thick visor trim, dome studs, no pearl
ring, and enlisted rear back spine. However,
the fittings on the helmet are not entirely
"made in Germany." In addition this eagle looks
at the olive branches and is a peace eagle. The
chin scales seemed to be similar to German chin
scales, but the rosettes are split brad and are
totally different. The liner is similar to a
German liner, but is slightly different. The
spike base is totally different. The leather
helmet itself appears to be in 1871 type model.
There are no cockades. Look specifically at the
vent hole in the spike base. It is very rough
and punched out.
This picture shows
the rear spine, the trichter, and the rear
visor, which is quite elongated similar to an
1871 pattern helmet.
Information provided from the de Quesada
collection adds that there were many of these
type helmets produced in low run quantities.
This style is representative of helmets made by
a NY firm named Deeken. These are somewhat more
flimsy in the metal areas than German made
The last helmet is
actually similar to an earlier German helmet
M42 model. This one has a cockade that is made
of leather, and is red white and blue. There is
no liner and this thing has never been cleaned.
The cruciform spike base is smaller than its
German counterpart, and the spike itself seems
rather primitive. There is a uniquely American
wappen that has had a patent on it. And again
is an eagle of peace. This is an excerpt from an
email by de Quesada:
"The early eagle on the M1842 helmet is
actually a Model 1832 Shako Plate. I have a
few examples of this plate including dug
versions from Second Seminole War era sites.
It is possible this piece could date to the
Civil War and Reconstruction eras. I have this
style helmet illustrated in Civil War and Post
Civil War era military suppliers catalogs."
goes more theories.
Research continues here. Militia units but photo