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Ask A Worthologist Question: French Fire Fighter’s Helmet

by Mike Wilcox (03/06/12).

WorthPoint member Dylan B. bought this helmet at an estate sale and was told it could be a Napoleonic Dragoon’s helmet. Curious, he contacted WorthPoint’s Ask a Worthologist service to find some answers.

Dylan B. purchased this helmet at an estate sale for $150. It was the only usual thing in the entire sale, which consisted of the usual bric-a-brac of post-World War Two homes, things like old typewriters, exercise bikes, mix-matched cutlery, dinnerware and, of course, National Geographic magazines. The person handling the sale said he was told it was “Napoleonic Dragoon’s helmet” and was brought back from France by the owner’s grandfather, a G.I. coming home from the Second World War. Not much else was known about it, other than it had been a perfect fit on the head of bust of Beethoven (already sold) and had perched there in the living room since it was liberated, circa 1945.

Dylan does not want to sell it, but is very curious as to its history and if it might have been in any famous battles. He contacted WorthPoint’s “Ask a Worthologist” service to inquire about this piece and his inquiry was forwarded to me. Here’s his question:

“There was an estate sale a couple of miles down the road from me, and I hadn’t planned on going to it, but when I drove by, a glint of shiny metal caught my eye. Most of the stuff was pretty much what you expect from a 1950s bungalow: old office equipment, exercise bikes, dishes, National Geographics, but sitting on its own was this fantastic helmet. I asked the guy handling the sale about it and he told me a funny story the owner had told him. The helmet was brought back by the owner’s grandfather from World War Two, and as long as he could remember, it had sat in the living room on the head a bust of Beethoven, which it fit perfectly.

“I found this hilarious and tried to buy the bust as well, but it had already sold. What I’d really like to know if this thing is what they said it is and what are the possibilities it has been in any famous battles.”

Here’s my response:

I too find the thought of Beethoven wearing this helmet hilarious. It’s too bad the bust had already been sold. I would have liked to have seen an image of that.

The former owner could not be blamed for thinking this was a French Dragoon’s helmet, because it’s actually based on the same model, but in actuality it is a 19th-century parade dress helmet worn by French fire fighters. Many of these were made by the same companies that produced them for the military, hence their similarity. This one dates from the 1880s and it is missing its front badge, which, in most cases, would indicate the town/city it came from.

In the current market, comparable French fire fighter’s parade helmets, missing a few bits, often sell at auction for about $300.

Mike Wilcox, of Wilcox & Hall Appraisers, is a Worthologist who specializes in Art Nouveau and the Arts and Craft movement.

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2 Responses to “Ask A Worthologist Question: French Fire Fighter’s Helmet”

  1. Rhonda Steele Edelman says:

    Could it be a Samurai head dress?

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