Montgomery Guard's Shako 

US Army Heritage and Education Center

HISTORIC OVERVIEW

After Treatment: Shako (front)In January 1837, with the permission of Governor Edward Everett of Massachusetts, several Irish Americans organized their own volunteer militia company in Boston. Called the Montgomery Guards, named after an Irish hero of the Revolution, this shako represents the headgear worn by these militiamen. The Montgomery Guard however, did not remain active for very long. Because of their Irish Catholic heritage, the unit was shunned by most of the other infantry units in Boston. This discrimination became evident on September 12, 1837, when, at a muster on the Commons, the rank and file of six of the ten units that the made up the Boston Brigade quit the field when the Montgomery Guard appeared. Upon returning to their armory, they were met by an angry mob of 3,000. Only after the appearance of the mayor and an armed posse did the crowds disperse. In February 1838, the Governor disbanded the six mutinous companies for conduct unbecoming and provoking a riot. Two months later, on the grounds that their continued existence would only provoke further violence, the Montgomery Guard was also disbanded.

 

PRE-TREATMENT CONDITION

Before Treatment: Shako (front)The shako was in unstable condition due to embrittlement of the leather, deteriorated or lost fasteners, and active copper corrosion. The chin strap was torn and detached on the proper left side. The metal band at the base of the hat was deformed and had numerous splits caused by work hardening or inter-granular corrosion of the copper alloy . The visor was extremely loose and an iron eyelet was missing from the proper right side of the stamped brass rosette. In addition, the face plate and the brass ring which covers the sewn seam between the side and crown were also loose at their points of attachment to the enameled leather shell. All brass components were spotted and heavily tarnished; minor areas of active copper corrosion were observed and noted. A name, believed to read “W C Jones Hampton” was found scratched into on the underside of the painted visor. The exterior surfaces of shako were disfigured by a heavy layer of grime embedded into the contracting resinous enamel coating.

 

TREATMENT

Scratched Inscription (one)The shako was packed and crated by B.R. Howard staff for transport to their studio. The primary treatment objectives, outlined by AHEC curatorial staff, were as follows: stabilization and reattachment of the leather chinstrap, securing all loose and partially detached metal fittings and decoration, surface cleaning and corrosion stabilization (over cleaning and over polishing were to be avoided), design and fabrication of a dual functioning exhibition and storage mount, and deciphering the scratched inscription.

 

During the process of photographic documentation various light sources and illumination techniques were employed to improve the legibility of the inscription located on the painted underside of the visor. High resolution digital images taken under raking halogen photo-lamps produced the greatest clarity. The first letter of the inscription remained illegible however, the remainder reads: W. C. Jones Hampton. After documentation, the shako was cleaned to reduce numerous white paint spatters or accretions and layers of dirt and grime found on the exterior surfaces of the headgear. The enlarged rivet holes, used to secure the visor, were then reinforced with a heat set fabric applied to the flesh side of the leather. The visor was then reattached to the leather shell using 16 gauge brass escutcheon pins inserted through the metal and the reinforced rivet holes; the pins were fastened using spring steel washers. The chinstrap was carefully humidified using damped acid free blotters, isolated from direct contact with the strap using Gore-tex, and then flattened and dried under weights. After drying, the thin leather strap was lined with a heat set fabric to provide the additional strength which it required. The chinstrap then reattached to the interior of the leather shell using small heat set fabric sutures. The brass components and the enameled leather elements were cleaned with cotton swabs moistened with mineral spirits. The brass then received a protective coating of microcrystalline wax and buffed with soft cotton cloths. To complete the treatment objectives B.R. Howard & Associates mount makers designed and built and internal support for the shako which was to be used for its' long-term storage and periodic exhibition.