Nation's Attic Diving Into History 2023

Early John Date 19th Century Canadian Diving Helmet

The auction will start in __ days and __ hours

Start price: $5,000

Estimated price: $10,000 - $20,000

Buyer's premium: 20%

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

Presented for your consideration is what we believe to be an extremely early mid 1800s Canadian John Date diving helmet. John Date was established in 1853 in Montreal Canada. Mr. Date was a master coppersmith and brass founder among other skills. It is unknown when his first helmet was made, but likely, based on his skills, in the mid to late 1850s. John Date would go on to make some of the finest helmets ever made in North America. His early helmets were similar to Siebe Gorman models and were just as good or better. Early Date example also did not have a company identification stamp, ID plate, or serial number. Today just about any example is prized for their quality and rarity.

John Date never had any huge contracts for mass quantities of helmets like his competitors in America. Typically, an individual helmet was ordered and then made for the customer. While the surviving majority have stayed in their homeland of Canada, a few have traveled elsewhere around the world. This helmet was discovered many decades ago and kept in a private collection. The helmet was never modified, cleaned, or even shared with the collecting community during that time.

As can be seen in the photos, there is no doubt this is an early diving helmet. While similar in construction to a 20th century helmet, this one features some beautiful subtle features only found on helmets from the 1850s to the 1880s. Those features include a non-recessed neck ring, wide breastplate, castellated bonnet, convex faceplate glass, and light-bulb style bonnet, to name a few.

While this helmet does not have a visible makers name stamped on it, there is a consistent stamping that is found on four locations. The number 8 is stamped on both neck rings, the faceplate frame, and the exhaust body. This matching number can only indicate the major components of the helmet are all matching and original to each other. Could this possibly be a serial number?

The bonnet and breastplate thread together with ease, just as a high quality piece of equipment should. The 100+ year old neck ring gasket is long gone. There are no holes, only typical working dents on the top of the bonnet from underwater work done over 100 years ago. The internal air vents in the bonnet are intact. Somehow the old glass in each port is still intact. The early convex faceplate glass does have some imperfections but is still solid and doing its job. The original owner of this helmet appears to have removed parts the window guards, likely to improve his visibility while working.

While difficult to capture in photos, this helmet does have an unmistakable deep dark patina that only something of this age can form. Luckily, the castellation on the bonnet is visible through the patina. Three of the original twelve breastplate bolts remain. On each of those bolts is a hex nut, undoubtedly not original to the helmet. Four brails are intact and match the curvature of the breastplate nicely. There are no holes in the copper body of the helmet. The original exhaust and air elbow fitting are present on the back of the bonnet. It should be noted that the air elbow diameter at the end where it is threaded is slightly smaller than the diameter of an American helmet by approximately 0.0625 of an inch.

This treasure of deep sea diving history is being sold with NO reserve. Please review the many photos and decide if you would like the honor of owning and preserving this piece of underwater art and ingenuity.

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.