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Received A Package From France

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Good Morning All,

 

I returned from my week on the road and had a package waiting for me at home. When I saw the size of the padded envelope and the "Grand-Charmont, France" sticker I knew immediately what was inside:

 

 

WWI_French_Aviateur_Cap_01.jpg

 

 

An original WWI French aviateur's flying cap from the Alsace region of the Western Front. The woman who had it collects and sells WWI items from the region where she lives, which just happens to be a few miles south of Belfort. If you know your Great War map you will recognize this area as being the one where the Escadrille Americaine first saw active service in 1916. The cap is exceptional, with the leather still being quite supple, and the fur and wool lining sound and complete. It has a wonderful aroma that mingles the scents of the leather, wool, and fur, along with just the faintest hint of an old oil. I hestitate to treat the leather with anything for fear of disturbing this vintage smell, but I suspect at some point I'll have to to insure it stays preserved.

 

Just imagine, there is a possibilty that this very cap could have been by worn by one of the American volunteers in the French Air Service.

 

Cheers!

 

Lou

 

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Lou, perhaps you ask a taxidermist, what to do best with the leather and fur?

It always touches a string inside me, to find or see such things, that are part of history already.

Edited by Olham

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A great find. But can you be sure it's actually been used by a pilot in the Great War? That's one of problems with buying historical stuff - you can never be absolutely sure. On the other hand, it doesn't really matter. At least it is the same model from the same period as the hats that were used in action by many pilots. Who knows, maybe the hat spent the war in some depot and was later used by some French farmer while driving his brand new tractor in the 1930s? :grin:

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Thanks folks.

 

Hasse Wind, you are quite right about such items. Unless they are accompanied by documentation and a fair amount of credible provenance it is hard to be sure, (and sometimes even with those things). However, the cap itself does possess the proper look, construction, and materials to have come from the WWI era, and the type of wear and aging to the item also supports it's supposed vintage. Add to that the woman who sold it lives in the area where the cap was supposed to have been worn, as well as her own statement of it's origin, and there is enough "evidence" for me to have a reasonable amount of faith that it is what it appears to be. Of course I have no way of proving or disproving it, (and likely never will), none of which detracts in any way from the intrinsic value and beauty of this wonderful old cap. I look at these old things in much the same light as Olham expressed: they touch at a "string" inside, to know they are somehow a part of history.

 

Cheers!

 

Lou

 

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Taxidermist was a stupid idea - if you have a museum near, you should ask the conservators there how they would treat such items, Lou.

They may know tricks, or special treatment stuff that is safe to use.

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Olham, I don't think a taxidermist was a stupid idea at all as they are very familiar with methods used to preserve and stabilize leather and fur. I should clarify that when I said I was hesitant to use anything on the leather it was more about losing that wonderful old aroma the cap currently has. I have treated vintage leather items very successfully with mink oil for a good many years and it is highly recommended for such use as it does not degrade the leather in any way, nor does it affect the old cotton thread, (but it does have it's own "unique" smell). It couldn't hurt though to stop by my local museum and simply ask their opinion on the care of such things as this cap.

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Sometimes you see things like that in German Ebay - but I know too little about the details of the original parts,

and I don't have the money to buy them anyway. Here are two examples; one at least is already over:

 

http://cgi.ebay.de/9891-Alte-Fliegerhaube-1-WK-/370419793656?pt=Militaria

 

http://cgi.ebay.de/WK-Fliegerhaube-Leder-/250685597883?pt=Militaria

 

There were also 3x WW2 Fliegerhaube from German Jagdflieger. If I was a rich man...

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Hasse Wind's caution reminds me of the piece of painted fabric I saw at the Van Nuys Air Show in the late 1990's. It was an authentic piece of Manfred von Richtofen's Fokker D-VII! AND it came with documentation of its authenticity. I just laughed and put it back. Didn't see any point in pushing the issue, because they would parobably just have shelved it until the next air show in the next town. Sometimes I wonder if some poor schmoe bought it.

 

But I'm with Lou on this. You'd think that if she was faking it she would likely attach it to a particular pilot or at least unit. If she didn't (and Lou didn't say anywhere that she did) she was probably just putting it out at face value, usually the action of an honest person. Of course that helmet could have been manufactured in December of 1918 and never was worn in combat. But it's just as possible that it was made in 1915 and saw plenty of action. Dare to dream, Lou, and dream big.

 

Beautiful find. (note font color...envy green)

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Thanks von Baur. And I too have seen such items as that one you describe, and wondered how people who attempt those frauds justify to themselves such dishonesty and outright lying. As to the woman who offered the cap I purchased, she described it as: "A flying cap of a French pilot from 1914/18, in good general condition. Leather worn, but no holes". I looked through the other items she had for sale, most of which were WWI battlefield recovered pieces such as spent bullets, boot and belt buckles and the like. I then traded a few emails back and forth and decided she seemed honest and genuine, so I took the chance and purchased the cap from her. I am very pleased with the item that arrived, and given the small amount I had to pay it's a bargain even if it turns out to be from a later date. But I will dare to dream.

 

Olham, I have run across a few wonderful old German WWI flying caps on eBay and other places, and they always seem to command higher money than their Allied counterparts. There's an original one right now on eBay that is priced at over $400.

 

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I once saw a documentary about archaelogy and WW1. They interviewed one British archaelogist, who was quite angry at people who go digging through old WW1 battlefields (apparently it's a popular hobby) and remove things such as those bullets and buckles you mentioned, Lou. He said that by removing such objects people are destroying history and the memory of the men who fought and died in the war, because those items are often the only thing the archaelogists can use to identify the units that were in the area, and sometimes even find out the identity of the men who were there. So when somebody uses a metal detector and removes everything he can from the area, he is actually making it impossible for archaelogists and historians to gain any useful information from that area. And it's not like you can become rich by selling old boot soles and belt buckles taken from old trenches.

 

This has nothing with that hat, of course. Just some food for thought about the damage people, even well-intentioned, can cause to historical locations.

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Hasse Wind, you are quite right about the damage to archeology that such digging can and does cause, and this of course has been going on for centuries. Some people do it for the money, some do it to own a "piece" of history, and some see it as a way to preserve that same history. No matter what the reasons, any unsupervised digging at an historically significant site will absolutely diminish or destroy the chances of gathering the valuable information that might be available to the trained archeologist. But on the flip side of that argument, you can also say that some very large bits of history have been uncovered by the "treasure hunters" who were out digging and simply ran across something no one knew was even there. When I was a kid I worked on a friend's farm in the summers and we would ocassionally turn up old arrow heads out in the field. On one particular day of a very dry summer we went digging for them down near the edge of a bog and, boys being boys, we got sidetracked in our quest due to the fun we were having mucking about in the soft spongy soil. After we had dug a hole about ten feet deep, (yes, ten feet, we had grabbed a ladder from the barn to see just how far down into terra-not -so-firma we could get), we hit a layer of black earth that was very odd. It was slippery, and oozy, and it stunk, so of course we began flinging it at each other. But we soon discovered there were little bits of a woody pulp-like material in it that was very strange. Long story somewhat shorter, after my friend's father contacted the county extension office about it they sent out an agent who took some samples and within a couple of weeks a crew was out excavating in what turned out to be a prehistoric deposite of plant and animal remains that yielded some large sections of old tree trunks, ferns, and mammoth bones. You never know what might be lying just under your feet unless you go digging for it.

 

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Great story, Lou! Wonderful - bringing up childhood memories. I think, with WW1 there is so much well

documented and known; it is still so fresh - I don't think you couldn't take a gun with you, if you found one.

But I wouldn't really dig for items.

What I will do some day, is to make a bicycle/train trip to Roucourt and other former German airfields.

Just for the feelings this would arise. Many villages haven't changed at all.

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Olham, it has been over 30 years since I was in Europe, and when I come back that is one of the things on my list too. I really want to see some of the sites of the old WWI airfields. Also, as to the issue of digging, it should be remembered that thousands of WWI relics still turn up every year when the farmers plow their fields. The Great War literally lies inches below the grass all along the old front lines and is unique in this regard when compared to other historic settings. No other conflict on the face of this old Earth has left behind so many items of destruction and survival in such a relatively condensed area, and I'm afraid they will be popping up out of the ground forever as haunting reminders of one of the most horrific and heroic times in human history.

 

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There are also some places where you can easily find things left from the actions of WW2. For example in Lapland and other northern areas of Scandinavia there are many wrecked aircraft or their remains from WW2 era, quite easily visible and some also quite well-preserved. Such remains can also be found from many Pacific islands. In densely populated areas everything tends to disappear quickly, but things are different in remote areas where only few people live.

 

Here's one website about the WW2 aeroplane wrecks in Lapland:

 

http://koti.phnet.fi/junkers/

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Usually two diffrent parties will have diametrically opposed views on excavating and both be 100% right. How can we learn about ancient...particularly prehistorical...history except by digging up the areas where those people lived and were buried? And yet how can you argue when the ancestors of those people complain that we're disturbing their final resting places just as a graverobber would, albeit in a more orderly manner. If a culture, such as ancient Egypt's, says that you need your material wealth with you in the afterlife then from the standpoint of that culture a person who removes that wealth to display in a museum is no different than one who removes it to sell for personal profit (and let's not forget the money paid to the archeologist/graverobber by the museum or the money the museum will make charging people to look at those items). None of King Tut's treasures has ever been returned to his tomb. For that matter, neither has King Tut. Is the sacrelige any less because the backdrop is marble halls instead of a circus tent? Whether P. T. Barnum or The Getty, a sideshow is still a sideshow.

 

The ethical questions about digging at historical sites have no end...and, in some cases, no beginning, either, which can complicate matters even further. Before Lou and company's muck was examined that was just the edge of a bog. Two weeks later it was an official archeological dig site. Brea is Spanish for 'tar', which is how the La Brea Tar Pits got their name. For a long time, residents of El Pueblo de la Reyna de los Angeles used to go there to get tar to waterproof their roofs. In 1901 an oil company geologist finds a few bones and the tar pit becomes The Tar Pits. If a country can nationalize archeological items taken before that country gave a rat's 6 o'clock (aviation reference, for those who will complain that I'm getting too far from the purpose of this forum) about that sort of thing, other than the immediate cash offered by the museum, then Lou and his friends should have to return all the arrowheads etc. that they found to the Indian tribes from whence they came or face charges (overstating the case for effect, Lou...no need to worry about a late-night knock on your door).

 

 

*eddited phour sppeling erurs*

Edited by von Baur

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Cool links Olham and Hasse Wind, thanks for sharing.

 

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...then Lou and his friends should have to return all the arrowheads etc. that they found to the Indian tribes from whence they came or face charges (overstating the case for effect, Lou...no need to worry about a late-night knock on your door)

 

No worries here, von Baur. Besides, those artifacts are long gone and likely went the way of many such things back then, via the endless trades we young boys engaged in a lifetime ago in the early 1960's:

 

 

"I'll swap ya these genuine for real Indian arrowheads for yer old Harmon Killebrew, Tony Oliva, and Bernie Allen, but ya gotta throw in those two aggies and that giant steelie shooter."

 

"Ah yer crazy. Ain't no way I'm givin ya all that for yer crummy old arrowheads. You can have the cards for em but that's it."

 

"You must be screwy! Look right here, ya know what that is? That's dried blood, probly cowboy blood too. Ya ever seen an arrowhead with dried cowboy blood on it? Huh, have ya? Makes it worth a bunch more than those cheesy cards and marbles ya got there, an maybe I don't want any of em now that I'm thinking on it."

 

"HEY! No takin it back after ya said it. I'll trade ya, I'll trade ya."

 

"OK then, it's a deal, and no backsies either."

 

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Lou, if I wasn't 6 years or so older than you, i would swear you would have been my neighbor and best friend when i grew up in Melrose and Hutchinson, Minnesota

Edited by Ras

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:rofl: Exactly the same trade everywhere on the planet it seems, Lou!

Translate it, change the items to "Sigurd-Hefte", "Nappos" and "Auto-Quartet", and it would be a German memory...

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Ras, six years apart? We could still have been like Wally and the Beav then. :biggrin:

 

Olham, it appears boys will be boys, in nearly every place and every time.

 

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