General Information: The US Model 1917, along with the British Mark I, was the standard headgear of the American Doughboy in the First World War. It is a near identical copy of the British MKI. One quick visual differentiator between the two types is the method of attaching the chinstrap mechanism to the shell; The MKI used a split pin for this purpose whereas the M17 used a rivet with a flat head on the underside of the rim. Other differences between the M17 and MKI include:
- The metal rim was flush at the ends on the M17 versus being significantly overlapped on the MKI
- The American helmet achieved a roughened, anti-glare paint finish generally with sawdust whereas the British helmets were generally finished with sand.
- The “Tighten cord and adjust net to fit the head” label at the top of the interior dome was linen-backed on the M17 versus just paper on the MKI.
- The stamps on the underside of the rim were different; The M17s had serial numbers with a two or three letter prefix beginning with U, X, Y, or Z.
- The ink stamps on the interior of the liners were different.
The helmet shells and liners were made by several different companies and then shipped to a Ford Manufacturing facility in Philadelphia for painting, assembly and shipping. Ultimately, 2,707,237 M17 helmets were produced.
As with the British MKIs, the M17s helmet shells were made in just one size with different sized liners. Virtually all the markings on the helmets, whether camouflage or painted or affixed unit identification, were done after the November 11, 1918 armistice.
Displayed Example: This helmet is typical of wartime issued M17s. It bears the lot number ZJ266. I have never seen any analysis of the lot numbers on these helmets, but if they followed a chronological sequence with “U” being early, and “Z” being late, then the lot number on this example would mark it as being from a late production run. That this may be so is supported by the stamp on the interior of the liner: “L.C.C. & Co. 11-18.” “L.C.C.& Co.” is likely an abbreviation for the Leatherwear Company of America in New York, one of the known manufacturers of M17 liners. The “11-18” part would correspond to November 1918. Because of the condition and the late production date, this particular helmet was probably unissued.
For my collection, I was aiming for one good M17 as might have been worn during the Great War. For me, this ruled out any painted helmets since these modifications were almost all done post-war.
Collector Notes: Every returning Doughboy was entitled to keep his uniform, including his helmet. The result was that a great many of these helmets ended up in the homes of former servicemen and they are still turning up from attics and estate sales. M17s are not rare and they can be a relatively inexpensive addition to a collection. Painted helmets, naturally, fetch higher prices. Helmets from the US Marine Corps or other famous units can be pricy as can artfully souvenired or camouflaged pieces. A collector can go very deep with painted helmet M17s as there are virtually unlimited variations to be found. Chis Armold’s book, “Painted Steel” is an excellent resource on this subject.
* National Archives. BODY SHIELD MANUFACTURED BY the Hamil De Forest Co., NY City. Nov. 30 1918. Subject 156WW-59C-8.
 Haselgrove. 2006. pp670-673.
 Lucy. 2000. pp.7.
 Raynosa. 1997. pp10-11.