Massachusetts Volunteer Militia Shako- New Bedford Made

Made by Henry P. Willis of New Bedford, a Saddle-harness-trunk maker. Circa 1840.

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The patten of this stove pipe shako sold by Henry P. Willis of New Bedford, Massachusetts is very similar to others made in the Boston area (John B. Baker, maker). Most likely Willis may have purchased from Baker, and pasted his label inside the crown. No mention of military headgear in the label.

The height is 8 inches without any flare.  The finish has an “alligatored hide” tarred leather look with a brass band at the crown. The rounded visor also is banded in brass. Side buttons are a Circa 1840, silver plated, two piece MVM cuff sized buttons that once held a leather chinstrap. The shako plates of the same period comprise a interrupted star burst encircling the Mass. gauntleted arm hold a sword with the motto, “MASS VOLUNTEER MILITIA.” The small stamped copper badge is crossed trumpets with tassels and presumably intended for light and other infantry companies. Both are silver plated, and  held in place by use of metal loops.

The white worsted wool banding running from beneath the upper plate and to the right side button, I added for show. Originally, an approximate 1″ worsted wool tap (much thinner) would have been used.  The color was most likely white.

Willis’s label is complete and advertises all that he makes. The owner of the shako is “S.F. Burrows” presumably from New Bedford. I have not researched the name for the militia companies at this local.

Overall condition is very good. The outer body is fine. Looking at the brass trim on the visor, I first thought broken at that point, but it appears that two pieces were used. Waste not, want not. A little bend to left side trumpet bell, and mouth piece broken off. The sweatband is rough with less than half remaining, the rest pretty much said Sayonara.  The horse hair plume is a replacement.

The plates used on this shako are a much scarcer type not usually encountered.  A great looking shako in the heyday of leather headgear in America.

The sheet music used to illustrate the shako and plates is from a piece of martial sheet music, depicting a member of the Hancock Light Infantry, which is offered elsewhere on this site, and not included in this lot.

Additional information

Weight 4 lbs