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Nation's Attic Diving Into History 2023

A.J. Morse & Son Circa 1909 Antique Diving Helmet

The auction will start in __ days and __ hours

Start price: $2,500

Estimated price: $5,000 - $7,500

Buyer's premium: 20%

Sales Tax: On the lot's price and buyer's premium

This helmet was made by arguably the most famous American helmet maker, the A.J. Morse & Son Company. Located in Boston, Massachusetts, this company started making diving helmets and related equipment in the 1830s. Morse would design some of the most iconic helmets ever conceived. In addition to helmets, the company would make all other related diving equipment as well as fire fighting gear. Morse helmets are known worldwide by divers for almost 200 years! The company is still in business today in Wisconsin.

This classic helmet was made circa 1909. The helmet has a copper body with brass hardware, all of which is present. The helmet features the original A.J. Morse & Son Inc. brass ID plate. Morse would put a serial # on both bonnet and breastplate neck rings plus all four brails. That serial number is 1461. This example features the matching number in all 6 locations! This serial # allows us to put a date of manufacturer of around 1909 on it.

Not long after this helmet was made, A.J. Morse started using round windows on the side of their commercial helmets. This example features the classic vertical oval side ports. This example has 3 lights (windows or ports) with a communications cup installed on the front of the bonnet. The exhaust is on the divers back right side of the bonnet. The air fitting is located on the back center of the bonnet and the communication fitting lower down the bonnet. A communications cable fitting is also on the back of the bonnet. A safety latch is present on the back to prevent separation of the bonnet and breastplate while the diver is underwater. The helmet is a classic example of what a commercial diver would have relied upon at the turn of the 20th century.

This helmet is in unmistakable original condition. The helmet is complete with all its glass, 12 wing nuts, four brails, exhaust valve, air fitting, window guards, internal air vents, old neck ring gasket, and safety pin. The helmet exhibits typical working dents on the top of the bonnet, none severe. At some point in the helmets life it was updated with the addition of communications fittings. These updates are evident by the communications cup and cable fittings both stamped Craftsweld. Since this helmet was made before standard communications hardware was commonly installed, these details prove the helmet was in use for decades. These subtle signs of use, in our opinion, really make a helmet like this one come alive!

Upon close inspection, there are a few small screws threaded into the back of the bonnet. These were typically done as small repairs to keep the helmet in working. There are no holes in the bonnet or breastplate. The faceplate and divers left side port glass are cracked. Both pieces of glass are still solid. The bonnet and breastplate thread together without a problem, as well as the faceplate. The faceplate has an old rope connecting it to the bonnet. This was done so the faceplate didn’t get lost or fall over the side. Just imagine all the hard work done in this hat!

All diving helmets in this auction will be accompanied by a certificate of authenticity from Nations Attic. The certificate will have a unique number that will match the number on a tamperproof hologram decal placed inside the helmet. This information will be kept on permanent file at Nations Attic and help ensure the provenance of the helmet and authenticity. The display stand shown in the photos is not included. The option to purchase one after the auction will be provided.

All items will be shipped with a signature required upon delivery and full insurance either via FedEx or the USPS Priority Mail. Worldwide shipping is available; however, no ocean freight will be offered on large items. DHL Express is an option for international shipments under 600 pounds via air. Payment via bank wire for customers outside the USA is required. A shipping quote prior to the auction can be provided by emailing your postal code.