The Mexican Sun Helmet

While various sun helmet patterns – all likely influenced by or based on the original British colonial pattern – were adopted by the nations of Europe, as well as the United States and even South American nations, it is largely forgotten that the military of Mexico also adopted a similar pattern. Little has actually been written about these helmets however.

Authors P Jowett and A de Quesada describe these helmets in a little detail in their book The Mexican Revolution: 1910-1920 (Osprey Publishing, 2006). The authors noted that Mexican Federal Army soldiers wore “Mexican artillery model sun helmet(s) without insignia.”

What should also be noted is that the Mexican military had a period where it was largely influenced by the French – especially during the period of the French intervention in Mexico from 1861 to 1871 – and later by the Germans. Mexico was one of several nations in Latin America that adopted German style “pickelhaubes (spike helmets), which were used from under the Porfirio Diaz Presidency, and the Uniform Regulations of 1905.

The Mexican pickelhaube was produced in Germany and adorned with a Mexican helmet plate. This is an officer’s example (Private Collection)

The Federal Army was disbanded on August 13, 1914 and replaced by the Mexican Constitutionalist Army, which also utilized sun helmets. Jowett and de Quesada described these helmets as being of American origin and worn alongside the US M1898 uniform. However, the authors describe the helmet as being the M1890 pattern – but likely meant it to be the M1889 pattern.

Based on the photographs published in the above noted book, as well as other sources the helmets are all in fact American made. It is likely that the Mexican artillery pattern may have been American Model 1880 helmets, while these were later supplemented by the American Model 1887/89 patterns.

An early 20th century post card showing troops of the Mexican Constitutionalist Army. The helmets appear to have a simple Mexican Army cockade on the front. These men are equipped with the M1895 Colt–Browning machine gun. Around 1904 the Mexican government purchased 150 of these guns in 7mm Mauser caliber, and these guns were employed throughout the protracted Mexican Revolution.

The reverse of the post card offers describes the soldiers – and even the strange situation regarding the Mexican Revolution – but offers no details as per the helmets.

It is likely that the M1889 helmets were adopted by the Mexican military just as the American Army was moving away from the use of these in favor of campaign hats. The helmets had been produced it seems in far greater numbers than those of the needs of the U.S. military, especially after the end of the Spanish-American War, so perhaps Mexico was provided with the helmets instead – making them early military surplus for export.

This period photo shows Mexican Constitutionalist officers – two of whom are wearing what is easily identifiable as American M1887/89 sun helmets. No badges are worn with these helmets.

Few – if any – of these helmets have been seen for sale, but one issue would be that these could be easily mistaken for American helmets. It appears that Mexican artillery insignia may have been worn but as some of the photos suggest it is likely that the Mexican cap cockades may have been attached to the front as well.

A still from the 1971 film “A Fistful of Dynamite” (Also known as “Duck, You Sucker!”) – set during the Mexican Revolution. While not exactly an accurate depiction of the Constitutionalist Army the soldiers are wearing khaki uniforms and sun helmets.

The Mexican military’s use of these helmets, either with the Federal or Constitutionalist Army – each of which was opposed to the rebel movements – could be an interesting side note in the history of American sun helmets of the 19th century.

Peter Suciu
November 2017

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