Q & A with Harry Rinker: 1950s Gentex Corporation H-4 Flight Aircraft Helmet

A Gentex H-4 U.S. Navy flight helmet.

The label inside the Gentex H-4 U.S. Navy flight helmet.

QUESTION: I have a helmet that was given to me by my deceased aunt. It is gold in color, has a ribbed top, and a decal of a wing with an anchor above two buttons to which a face shield or oxygen mask could be attached. Inside is a textile lining which includes a piece that fits over the ears. The label reads: “68. H4. 7 ¼ / CONTRACT N383s – 2135A / GENERAL TEXTILE MILLS, INC. / NEW YORK, N.Y. U.S.A., PAT PNOG.” The label also has a GENTEX logo to the right. A chin mike and adapter plug are attached to the helmet. Can you identify the helmet and provide me with its history and value.

– LAS, Reading, Pa.

ANSWER: You own an H-4 United States flight aircraft helmet dating from the late 1950s. Contact your aunt’s surviving family and ask if her husband was a naval pilot. If the answer is yes, ask if they can provide you with one or more photographs of your aunt’s husband while he was in the service, ideally in his pilot’s uniform. Military collectors pay a premium when uniform and accoutrements can be associated with a specific individual.

Gentex Corporation, which made its first flight helmets in 1948, traces its origins back to the Klots Throwing Company in Carbondale, Pa. When Henry Durrel Klots’ throwing plant in New York burned down in 1894, he relocated, on the advice of his bookkeeper Marcus Frieder, to Carbondale to take advantage of the unemployed wives and daughters of coal miners. A successful producer of silk cartridge bags in the First World War, the introduction of rayon forced the company into bankruptcy in the 1920s.

Marcus Frieder and his son Leonard reorganized the company in 1932. General Textile Mills, the name of the new company, began acquiring mills in Maryland, Pennsylvania, Virginia and West Virginia. In World War II, General Textile Mills made parachutes for the U.S. military. During the war, the company began experimenting with fiberglass mat impregnated with a polyester resin to manufacture parachute boxes. In 1948, using the same technology, General Textile Mills produced the H-1 flight helmet for the U.S. Navy.

General Textile Mills became Gentex in 1958. Today, Gentex is the only company making flight helmets approved by the Air Force, Army, Coast Guard, Marine Corps and Navy.

According to Salimbeti.com, the H-4 U.S. Navy flight helmet “was a further development of (the) H-3. The rigid shell with reinforcing ridges, in different shape respect to the H-3 model, is constructed of a fiberglass cloth reinforced with epoxy resin. Also for this model a cloth inner helmet which incorporated the earphones was utilized. This was secured to the rigid shell by ‘pull the dot’ snap fasteners on the cheek flaps and in some cases with additional straps attached to snap fasteners in front and in the back of the rigid shell.

“The H-4 was equipped with a boom mounted microphone M-6A/UR to be used below 10,000 feet. Above this altitude an A-13A or A-14 Oxygen mask was used…. The H-4 was used by U.S.N and U.S.M.C in the early through the late 50s.”

The National Naval Aviation Museum in Pensacola, Fla., has a nearly identical example of your H-4 flight helmet in its collection.

Military flight helmets are very collectible. Helmets associated with periods when American is at war tend to bring more than helmets from times of peace. Although America was deeply engaged in the Cold War at the time your helmet was in use, the period still is viewed as one of “peace.”

The secondary market value of your H-4 naval flight aircraft helmet is around $150. The value is based upon the helmet’s condition and lack of additional attachments, for example the face shield.

QUESTION: I have a Winchester Model 16 handsaw that I acquired at a garage sale. Does it have collector value?

– M, Mapleton, Maine

ANSWER: When most collectors hear “Winchester,” they associate the name with firearms and ammunition. However, Winchester also made tools and other household items.

After working as a carpenter in several East Coast cities and as a “men’s furnisher” in Baltimore, Oliver F. Winchester, born in Brenton, Mass., on Nov. 20, 1810, returned to New Haven, Conn. in 1848 to become a manufacturer. In 1855, he organized the Volcanic Arms Company, which produced the Volcanic Repeating rifle. In 1857, the company became the New Haven Arms Company. After a series of reorganizations, the company emerged as the Winchester Repeating Arms Company in 1866.

Following the end of World War I, Winchester began manufacturing tools as well as firearms and ammunition. The company launched “The Winchester Store,” a campaign to market the company’s tools nationally. Winchester expanded its product lines, introducing the slogan—“As Good As The Gun.” Between 1922 and 1929, Winchester merged with Simmons Hardware Company becoming The Winchester Simmons Company. Following its dissolution of the Simmons Hardware partnership, Winchester entered receivership in 1931 and ended its tool manufacturing business.

I found two auction records for a Winchester No. 16 saw. The Burley Auction Group, of New Braunfels, Texas, sold an example on Nov. 17, 2007, for $60. Garner Auctions, of Carrollton, Ohio, sold a Winchester No. 16 saw for $115. As always, my advice is to think conservatively when it comes to value. In restored condition, your Winchester No. 16 saw is worth between $50 and $65.

QUESTION: I have a pair of salt and pepper shakers in the shape of miniature Schlitz beer bottles. The bottles are brown glass, have a gray cap, and stand 4 inches high. They are in a shipping box that looks very old. I cannot read the cancellation date of the stamps on the box. What are these salt and pepper shakers worth?

– MB, Shiloh, Ohio

ANSWER: Schlitz, The Beer That Made Milwaukee Famous, issued its miniature beer bottle salt and pepper shaker set in 1957. The white stiff-board period box contains Schlitz advertising on the top and sides. The box also was made in a tan stiff-board. Examples with the box are listed on numerous internet sites starting at $12.50 and ending around $22.

The period box is essential to value. The two miniature bottles without the correct or no box would sell for under $5.

READER’S RESPONSE: Mark Chervenka, one of the most knowledgeable individuals in the antiques and collectibles trade in the area of authentication and reproductions, copycat, fantasy and fake items, sent me the following information regarding a comment that appeared in Rinker on Collectibles: Repurposed, a New Name for an Old Concept, a column I wrote in mid-July on the subject of repurposing:

“You quoted a homeowner/collector who said, in effect, there were no authentic cameo glass lamps made by Gallé or Daum circa late 19th and early 20th century.

“The homeowner/collector was not correct. Gallé, Daum and other glass factories did produce cameo glass table lamps from the late 19th century through the 1930s (with Daum continuing limited production well beyond those years).

“While the homeowner/collector apparently had genuine pre-1940 cameo glass vases drilled to accommodate power cords, original cameo glass lamps, made circa 1890-late 1930s, were virtually never made with power cords passing through drilled, or any other similarly produced, small holes in the sides of lamp bodies.

“Almost all authentic original pre-1940 cameo glass table lamps did not require drilling simply because original lamp bodies were open at both top and bottom. For most full-sized lamps, power cords originally ran under a notch—cut, ground or crimped—in the standing rim of the open base or under a gap made by similarly fluting or flaring rims in open bases. After passing under the rim, cords ran up through the lamp body entering the bottom of an electrical socket centered in the top opening by a metal collar anchored to the top rim of the glass body.

“Alternatively, smaller authentic pre-1940 cameo glass nightlight-sized or boudoir-sized lamps commonly had power cords simply running out the side of electrical sockets and down the outside of the glass base rather than down through the glass body. This method also precluded drilling sides of glass lamp bodies for cords.

“Daum, Gallé and other factories also made an extensive variety of pre-1940 cameo glass shades for lamps, ceiling fixtures, wall sconces and many other applications for sale through the general lighting industry (OEM as well as replacements).

“Cameo glass lamps are worth many times the value of similarly sized vases. Over the years, many pieces originally made as vases (with closed solid bottoms) have been drilled and married with incorrect (but genuinely old) dome-shaped shades originally made for period ceiling fixtures. Almost all authentic shade-base combinations can be proven through original glass factory catalogs as well as late 20th century sales catalogs from respected auction houses.”

I want to thank Mark for sharing his knowledge and taking the time to author this detailed commentary.

Rinker Enterprises and Harry L. Rinker are on the Internet. Check out Harry’s Web site.

You can listen and participate in Harry’s antiques-and-collectibles radio call-in show “Whatcha Got?” on Sunday mornings between 8 a.m. and 10 a.m. Eastern Time. It streams live on the Genesis Communications Network.

“Sell, Keep Or Toss? How To Downsize A Home, Settle An Estate, And Appraise Personal Property” (House of Collectibles, an imprint of the Random House Information Group), Harry’s latest book, is available at your favorite bookstore and via Harry’s Web site.

Harry L. Rinker welcomes questions from readers about collectibles, those mass-produced items from the 20th century. Selected queries will be answered on this site. Harry cannot provide personal answers. Send your questions to: Rinker on Collectibles, 5955 Mill Pond Court SE, Kentwood, MI 49512. You can e-mail your questions to harrylrinker@aol.com. Only e-mails containing a full name and mailing address will be considered. Please indicate that these are questions for WorthPoint.

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