While digging through boxes one day, we came across two helmets worn by German soldiers during World War I. Donated in 1975 by Floyd Elliott these helmets are excellent examples of how even within the same army, uniforms differed. The first helmet is an example of what we traditionally think a German helmet from World War I should look like. Known as a Pickelhaube, this helmet was originally introduced for the Prussian infantry in 1842. Other militaries such as Mexico, Portugal, Scandinavia and even Britain would use the Pickelhaube as a jumping off point for their own helmets. Originally made of leather with a spike on the top, these helmets were worn by every rank of military personnel and had different features depending on the rank and unit of the wearer. As the war progressed however, the helmet were soon made of treated felt and later sheet metal. By 1916, the German army were only using the helmets for ceremonial purposes and had adopted the pot-style helmets we associate with World War II. (Source: Military History Now.com)
The second helmet is known as a Tschapka and was used from 1843-1915. The helmets were modeled after those worn by Ulanen (Lancer) Regiments. The helmet is tall and has a squared top similar to a mortarboard. This part of the helmet would have been covered with colored cloth that was specific to each Regiment. These colors were then trimmed in silver if the wearer was an officer. By 1915, the top part of the helmet (mortarboard section) was removable. (Source: Kaiserbunker.com)
So how did these helmet end up at the museum? It was not uncommon for U.S. soldiers to send helmets and other items recovered on battlefield home to loved ones. In a letter to his children, William Snider of Kenton wrote about two helmets he sent back to them at the end of the Great War. When families no longer wish to keep these items, they are sometimes donated to the museum and we are thrilled to have them.