Original U.S. Model 1881 71st New York Guard Officer’s Dress Spiked Pith Helmet by Ridabock & Co.

Item Description

Original Item: One Only Available. Much like our European cousins in the 1880s, the U.S. Army started to adopt spiked pith helmets, often in white, with all brass mounts and occasionally plumes. These saw active service in the Spanish American War of 1898 especially in the tropical climate in Cuba. While often referred to as "pith helmets" in the broad sense, it was made from cork, like many European variants, such as the Wolseley pattern used by the British.

This helmet dates to the 1880s, and it really is quite striking. This is not the type of helmet that was worn in the field, but instead one intended for use with the "dress" uniform for ceremonial occasions. It is beautifully made from cork covered with brown fabric, with a partial makers stamp inside around the spike fixture.


The Helmet plate displays the New York Guard Seal helmet plate; an Eagle perched atop a shield, wings spread, the number 71 in front and a flag below marked Excelsior. The plate is in excellent condition. The side cockades over the ears are of crossed rifles for an Infantry Officer. Comes complete with its original brass scales chin strap with felt backing. Chin strap is in good condition with virtually no damage. The overall condition of the helmet is fantastic given its age. There is no damage to the inside or outside. The underside of the brim even has the size sticker still, 6 ⅞.

Very nice, great condition for age, ready to display.

The 71st New York Infantry Regiment is an organization of the New York State Guard. Formerly, the 71st Infantry was a regiment of the New York State Militia and then the Army National Guard from 1850 to 1993. The regiment was not renumbered during the early 1920s Army reorganization due to being broken up to staff other units from 1917 to 1919, and never received a numerical designation corresponding to that of a National Guard regiment.

In the Spanish–American War, the 71st Regiment, New York Volunteers, were the first of twelve New York State regiments called to active service on May 10, 1898. The regiment entrained to Tampa on May 13, arriving on May 17. A week of confusion and quartermaster incompetence delayed their shipment to Cuba. The 71st was bivouacked along with the 1st U.S. Volunteer Cavalry, the "Rough Riders", in Tampa, who then stole a march on the 71st to steal their transport on the Tampa. The 71st's sea trip took two weeks[4] The confusion of this organization was cited as one of the reasons for the 1903 reforms of the Army and National Guard.

There were ten companies of the regiment, with 1,000 soldiers, organized into three battalions.

Arriving at Siboney, Cuba, on June 23, the 71st was brigaded with two regular regiments, the 6th and 16th Infantry Regiments in the First Brigade under Regular Army Brigadier General Hamilton S. Hawkins, as part of General Jacob Ford Kent's division, as part of the Fifth Corps under General Shafter. Although the 71st was regarded as one of the best National Guard regiments, it was equipped with obsolescent black powder rifles, and its commanding officer, Lieutenant Colonel Wallace A. Downs, reported that one-third of his men had never fired a rifle before.

The 71st was ordered to support the Rough Riders in a skirmish against Siboney's garrison, but the fighting was over before the New Yorkers could arrive. On June 27, the brigade moved towards Santiago, making slow progress over poor roads in the heat. A letter from a private in the 71st noted "Yesterday the line of march up the hill was strewn with blankets and extra clothing, even some of the 'regs' [U.S. Regulars] discarded clothes and walked in underwear."

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