Original U.S. WWI Model 1918 Experimental "Liberty Bell" Helmet with Chinstrap & Partial Liner

Item Description

Original Item: Only One Available. The industrialization and mechanization of war in the early twentieth century—which meant an increased use of artillery, tanks, and machine guns, and the advent of trench warfare—resulted in an unprecedented number of killed and wounded soldiers right from the outset of World War I in 1914. The large number of head wounds suffered by combatants soon made it apparent that metal helmets, though long out of use, were absolutely necessary on the modern battlefield and that other forms of armor also should be explored.

When the United States eventually entered World War I in 1917 it had no steel helmet. The American military turned to Dr. Bashford Dean, an American zoologist and armor expert who served on the board at both the New York Natural History Museum and the Metropolitan Museum of Art, to help design a helmet for the soldiers heading to France. However, these were still in the prototype phase, and the decision was made to adopt the British MkI Brodie Helmet instead. The British sent 400,000 helmets to the United States while production was ramped up, and the helmet was adopted as the M1917. However, the U.S. was not entirely happy with the design, and efforts were continued to make a U.S. designed helmet.

One of these was the Model 1918 "Liberty Bell" helmet, designed by United States Army Major James E. McNary as a replacement for the Model 1917. 1,000 to 2,000 models were manufactured in France for trials, where the helmet proved very unpopular with troops due to its relatively low degree of protection as well as displeasing aesthetics. Two types of liners were utilized, one with a three-pad system similar to many contemporary European models and the other with the single liner band which this example exhibits. Due to its unpopularity, the project was abandoned in 1920.  

This example is one of the few known surviving examples. This helmet features much of the original charcoal gray paint, with little sign of rust or other damage, just some scuffing from storage. The original leather chin strap is present, and in good condition, though it does have a stapled repair where it had broken through completely, long ago. The liner is partly complete, showing a lot of wear and degradation to the leather, as well as mothing to the wool fabric padding around the liner band. The leather top pad is still in good shape, and all four springs around the liner band are still present.

Overall a very nice example of one of the most rare helmets from the Great War Era.

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