US Cavalry M1881 Enlisted Fulldress Helmet, Original


US Cavalry enlisted man’s M1881 fulldress plumed helmet, totally complete and authentic, in superb condition. This piece is all-original, with the exception of the cords and chinstrap.


The original helmet body was manufactured by the most prominent of the Army’s headgear contractors, and is so stamped in plum-colored ink on the sweatband’s interior: “Wm. Horstmann Co. / Philadelphia.” Interestingly, there is no accompanying contract date or inspector’s initials stamped nearby. The brass crown ventilator is also Horstmann stamped. The regulation pressed felt shell is in excellent, unissued/unworn condition, with no breaks, tears, mold, misshapen areas, or any of the other maladies commonly afflicting these relatively fragile helms. All the leather components of the body—the exterior encircling band, the visor trim, visor and cape linings, and sweatband—are all in fine shape. Size is a 6 7/8, as attested by two original paper tags—one pasted on the sweatband, the other on the shell’s rear interior. The sweatband’s original ivory silk finishing ribbon is still in place as well.


All the original brass trimmings are similarly excellent, and match in color and gloss. The frontplate sports the German silver regimental numeral “7” for the Army’s best-known Cavalry outfit. Members of Custer’s old unit wore this variety of helmet from 1887 (when their branch color darkened from lemon yellow to chrome yellow) through 1902—the era spanning the Twilight of the Frontier through the Dawn of the American Empire. They were wearing helmets like this one when they returned from Wounded Knee and before they embarked for combat in Cuba—and during countless guard mounts and fulldress parades in between.

Plume is a mint original, clean and full, and in the classic 1887 shade of dark yellow. The reproduction helmet cords match the horsehair’s color precisely, and are constructed of worsted wool—unlike other replicas available nowadays, which are typically of cotton. The cord set is as issued in one-piece configuration, including both the helmet suspension and breastcords. Original cords are essentially impossible to find on the loose in presentable condition, and this set is absolutely the next best thing--crafted by a talented practitioner using original materials, and with an original set on his workbench for guidance. They are so superb they recently fooled two well-known IWP helmet authorities who unknowingly pronounced them “original.”


If you’ve always wanted a Cavalry fulldress helmet, you would be hard-pressed to find a cleaner, more complete, and more honest example than this one.