Evolution of the American Pressed Fiber Helmet

Part of the author's collection of Pressed Fiber Helmets

Part of the author’s collection of Pressed Fiber Helmets

Sadly little has been written on the American “Pressed Fiber Helmet,” which actually was in service longer than other other helmet with the American military. While we’ve previously noted that this pattern helmet was produced by two companies – Hawley Products and International Hat Company – little of its history and variations have been chronicled.

While a definitive timeline is still very much a point of conjecture and speculation, this author has attempted to create a reasonable timeline of that follows the evolution of the helmets.

All helmets are part of the author’s personal collection

Press2

This early example of the Pressed Fiber Helmet was likely produced by Hawley Products for the civilian market and “pressed” into military service. It has a date inside written in pen from June 26, 1937 and according to the writing was used during a shooting competition at Camp Perry in Ohio.

Press2b

This helmet features only three grommets on each side. These apparently doubled as vents, while two on each side helmet the liner and the third on each side the chinstrap. This helmet appears to be a pressed material similar to polystyrene, but that wasn’t developed until 1941 so it is obviously a different (but similar) material. This is the earliest dating of this pattern of helmet encountered by this author.

Press3

This “early” example also features only three grommets on each side, two to hold the liner and one for the chinstrap. This example has no stamps, so its exact origin is not known.
However this is the same pattern used by Hawley Canada, so perhaps it was an unissued Canadian made version. This pattern is also seen in South American examples, suggesting it could be an “export” product.

Press3b

The liner of the above model. Note the leather chinstrap.

Pressed4a

A possible “experimental” press fiber helmet that apparently was painted for use with the U.S. Army. It certainly seems to match the color of the M1 helmet.

Pressed4b

Press6a
A Hawley Product made pressed fiber helmet that may have been the first pattern designed for the military as it features a front grommet. This one has a pre-WWII officer’s cap eagle.

Press6b

Pressed5a
An International Hat Company made pressed helmet. It has the same basic shape, but a close inspection shows a greater number of “folds” in the faux puggaree than the Hawley version.

Pressed5b

Pressed5c

The “maker stamp” for the International Hat Company.

Press7

A “classic” WWII era Hawley pressed fiber helmet with the USMC EGA on the front and complete leather chinstrap.

Press8

A later WWII era/post-War version by Hawley. It features the same grommets/vent placement as the International Hat Company version, but a close inspection shows the faux puggaree has less folds than the former version.  This essentially remained the “pattern” from 1944 until the 1990s. This features four grommets at the bottom to support the liner, while the chinstrap is attached via hooks on the chinstrap.

Press8b

The chinstrap was changed from leather to an elastic material. These helmets appear to have been produced in a range of colors from tan/khaki to olive drab. This example is a later version used by the USN.

Press9

A later “variation” made by Hawley Products. This one features three grommets on the front.

Press10

A gray version of the Hawley helmet that was reportedly considered for use by the US Navy in the 1980s. This example was apparently never adopted.

 

 

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