The Pickelhaube (plural Pickelhauben; from the old German Pickel = "point" or "pickaxe", and Haube = "bonnet", a general word for headgear), also "Pickelhelm," was a spiked helmet worn in the 19th and 20th centuries by German military, firefighters, and police. Although typically associated with the Prussian army, the helmet enjoyed wide use among uniformed occupations in the Western world.
The Pickelhaube was originally designed in 1842 by King Frederick William IV of Prussia, maybe as a copy of similar helmets that were adopted at the same time by the Russian military. It is not clear whether this was a case of imitation, or parallel invention. The early Russian Pickelhaube had used the spike as a holder for a horsehair plume in full dress, a practice also followed with some Prussian models (see below).
Frederick William IV introduced the Pickelhaube for use by the majority of Prussian infantry on October 23, 1842 by a royal cabinet order. The use of the Pickelhaube spread rapidly to other German principalities. Oldenburg adopted it by 1849, Baden by 1870, and in 1887, the Kingdom of Bavaria was the last German state to adopt the Pickelhaube. During the second half of the 19th century, the armies of a number of nations besides Russia (including Colombia, Chile, Mexico, Portugal, Norway, and Sweden) adopted the Pickelhaube or something very similar. The Pickelhaube also influenced the design of the British army Home Service helmet, as well as the custodian helmet worn by police in England and Wales to this day.
The basic Pickelhaube was made of hardened (boiled) leather, given a glossy-black finish, and reinforced with metal trim (usually plated with gold or silver for officers) that included a metal spike at the crown. Early versions had a high crown, but the height gradually was reduced and the helmet became more fitted in form. In 1867 an attempt at weight reduction by removing part of the front and rear peaks did not prove successful.
Some versions of the Pickelhaube worn by German artillery units employed a ball-shaped finial rather than the pointed spike. Prior to the outbreak of World War I in 1914 detachable black or white plumes were worn with the pickehaube in full dress by German generals, staff officers, dragoon regiments, infantry of the Prussian Guard and a number of line infantry regiments as a special distinction.
The Russian version initially had a horsehair plume fitted to the end of the spike, but this was later discarded in some units. The Russian spike was topped with a small ball, with the spike emerging from it. After 1862 the spiked helmet ceased to be generally worn by the Russian Army, although it was retained until 1914 by the Cuirassier regiments of the Imperial Guard and the Gendarmerie. The Russians prolonged the history of the pointed military cover with their own cloth Budenovka headgear in the early 20th century.
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