ACME Press Photo of the Pressed Fiber Sun Helmet

It has been long established that the American pressed fiber sun helmet was used as both a civilian and military helmet, but one key detail that has largely been uncertain for sure is what year the helmet was even considered for use by the military.

While it now appears that this helmet pattern may have likely been based on the British “Standard Pattern” that was used by the USMC in Haiti in the 1920s and early 1930s, a long forgotten ACME publicity photo has surfaced that includes a date: 7-8-37.This photo isn’t itself remarkable, and it appears the negative may have even been touched up (badly), but the press copy on the backside of the photo is rather detailed, suggesting “U.S. ARMY TRIES TROPICAL HELMET FOR TROOPS.”

The back of the photo includes the original publicity information – this helmet was tested by the 11th Infantry from Fort Benjamin Harrison. The photo is dated 7-8-37.

The helmet does appear to be an early Hawley pattern, but based on the number of folds and placement of the grommets it could be the same early civilian style that this author has only once seen in use as a military helmet.

A close up of the helmet. It appears that a small unit badge has been affixed to the front of the helmet.

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.

This helmet features only three grommets on each side. These apparently doubled as vents, while two on each side of the 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.

The photo along with the surviving early helmet in this author’s collection should confirm that the U.S. Army began at least testing the new sun helmet in the summer of 1937. After 80 years the dots are truly being connected!

Peter Suciu

August 2017

Thank you to Roland Gruschka for bringing this rare photo to my attention.

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