German Pickelhaube 

United States Army Center of Military History

HISTORIC OVERVIEW

Leather & Nickel Plated Brass PickelhaubeThis style helmet, called a Pickelhaube, was a spiked helmet worn by the German military throughout the 19th and 20th centuries. The word Pickelhaube is rooted in the old German pickle, meaning “point” or “pickaxe,” and Haube, meaning “bonnet.” The Pickelhaube was designed by King Frederick William IV of Prussia in 1842 but has its roots in similar designs as early as the Napoleonic Era. Early designs of this helmet were made of leather and trimmed with metal—typically gold or silver. The spike, or crown, had several variations depending on rank, uniform, and nationality. Horsehair plumes were also used in conjunction with the finial. Later models of the Pickelhaube—specifically those of World War II—were all metal, typically stamped steel, and meant to be less ornamental and more protective in combat. Today, this style helmet is reserved primarily for ceremonial use and parade functions.

 

PRE-TREATMENT CONDITION

1915 Felt covered PickelhaubelB.R. Howard & Associates was awarded a four year contract by the United States Army Center of Military History, Collections Branch, Washington D.C., to provide ongoing treatment on a variety of objects spanning multiple states. This collection of Pickelhaubes was sent to our studios for treatment. Upon inspection, it was determined that many of the helmets were in unstable condition due to failed components such as leather and stitching. Additional issues included deformations of some metal components, oxidation of steel pieces, tarnishing silver plating, and copper corrosion. In some instances, the leather chinstraps had been stained, in others, loss of material was evident. All of the helmets were covered with a moderate to heavy layer of dirt and grime. Each individual helmet had unique issues that were discovered, and as such, each helmet was thoroughly photo documented as part of a treatment proposal produced to specifically identify and record their individual needs. These reports were provided to the U.S. Army for review and their treatment was subsequently approved.

 

TREATMENT

Though each helmet required a different level of treatment, the overall requirements for the Pickelhaubes were similar. In several cases, the finial, or spike, was removed to facilitate cleaning. At this point, it was discovered that many of the helmets had been covered with a layer of linseed oil, which had oxidized causing discoloration. This coating and any active corrosion was then removed taking care not to damage the original finishes or patina. In some cases, non-original material was removed and replaced with historically accurate reproductions and marked as such. Where necessary, aged leather was rehydrated and reformed appropriately. Deformed metal components were also reformed taking care not to cause further damage. Again, as required, failed stitching was replaced using matching materials and colors. Tarnished silver or corroded copper components were cleaned, degreased, and then coated with a protective lacquer. Those helmets that had been disassembled were then reassembled and the exterior of each helmet was degreased and coated with an isolation/protective barrier of a specialized wax. The Pickelhaubes were then returned to the Army along with a treatment report for each helmet.

 


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