Presented is a very rare 12 bolt, 4 light Morse Navy MK
V diving helmet that was made in 1919 thereby being one of the earliest MK V’s built. It is the first of this type that
we have seen in five years though our records show we previously sold three of this date. That is remarkable because
even though Morse was one of the original Navy suppliers of the MK V Diving System, very few of their early MK V helmets
are seen on the market making this a choice for a serious collector. The stand is not included.
ANCHOR MARK: Morse records show that SN 2859 was made in 1919, and shipped to the Brooklyn Navy Yard.
The number appears on the neck ring alongside the name “Connell“ who may have been the first diver
using it. Because this was so early in production, it predates when the USN special anchor inspector’s marks were stamped
on WW II production helmets. However, this helmet has the mark on the speaker cup indicating that it received service
during the War. We had no luck in searching the web for any mention of a Navy diver with this family name.
After careful analysis, we believe the helmet may have some mismatched parts. The Navy was prone to use what they had
to keep the gear in service. And, except for the brails which are a recent replacement, the helmets has been this way for
many years.PROVENANCE: This helmet was formerly owned by a collector of nautical paraphernalia who acquired it
about twenty five years ago. Nothing else is known about it other than information provided by Morse Diving, Inc.
2859 July 8, 1919
Inner WorkingsCONDITION: This bonnet
has seen ninety one years of service and has the dents to attest to its age. By the same token, it is in very good
condition overall. Its deep dark patina has a reddish brown tone. It is complete in all respects except for a speaker with
the brailes being a recent replacement. All moving parts operate. The number 2859
appears on the neck ring alongside the name “Connell“. All the air passages inside are intact. The helmet weighs 55 pounds.
It is being offered as a display item only, and should not be used for any other purpose unless certified
by a competent diving shop.
HISTORY OF MORSE DIVING: In the arena of deep sea diving, there are few companies
with the longevity and history of Morse Diving. The company was founded in 1837 as a Boston maker of brass ware,
three years before Englishman Augustus Siebe manufactured its first closed air dive helmet. During the Civil War, the firm
commenced building maritime fittings and began experimenting with early underwater hardhat designs from Siebe-Gorman
and other pioneering makers. In 1864, Andrew Morse bought out his partner, introduced his sons into the business, and began
to focus on creating new products for underwater salvage expeditions. In 1904, that firm became A. J. Morse and
Sons, Inc., under which name it continued until 1940. Then the name Morse was re-incorporated as Morse Diving Equipment
Company, Inc. Finally in 1998, the company changed owners, and became Morse Diving Inc.
1919 Morse MK V compared to a 1942 Schrader MK V
Note the size
of the respective bonnets. The Schrader has been SOLD!
their expertise and experience grew over the years, they developed a worldwide reputation as a major supplier of
hardhat diving apparatus. Morse was the first company to make the Navy MK V helmet, starting production in 1916. During the
onslaught of World War Two only Morse and then Schrader were making dive helmets for the Navy. Desco and Miller-Dunn went
into production around 1942 or 1943. In total only about 7,000 MK V helmets were produced by all four companies during the
BRIEF HISTORY of NAVY MK V DEEP SEA DIVING DRESS:By 1915, the Bureau of Construction and Repair had designed the MK V Diving Helmet which
seemed to address many of the problems encountered in diving. This deep-sea outfit was designed for extensive, rugged diving
work and provided the diver maximum physical protection and some maneuverability.The 1915 MK V Diving Helmet had an elbow inlet with a safety valve that allowed air to
enter the helmet, but not to escape back up the umbilical if the air supply were interrupted. Air was expelled from the helmet
through an exhaust valve on the right side, below the port. The exhaust valve was vented toward the rear of the helmet to
prevent escaping bubbles from interfering with the diver’s field of vision.By 1916, several improvements had been made to the helmet, including a rudimentary communications
system via a telephone cable and a regulating valve operated by an interior push button. The regulating valve allowed some
control of the atmospheric pressure. A supplementary relief valve, known as the spitcock, was added to the left side of the
helmet. A safety catch was also incorporated to keep the helmet attached to the breast plate. The exhaust valve and the communications
system were improved by 1927, and the weight of the helmet was decreased to be more comfortable for the diver.After 1927, the MK V changed very little. It remained basically the same helmet used in
salvage operations of the USS S-51 and USS S-4 in the mid-1920’s. With its associated deep-sea dress and umbilical, the MK
V was used for all submarine rescue and salvage work undertaken in peacetime and practically all salvage work undertaken during
World War II. The MK V Diving Helmet was the standard U.S. Navy diving equipment until succeeded by the MK 12 Surface-Supplied
Diving In February 1980 which in turn was replaced by the MK 21 in December 1993.