Thursday, July 15, 2010

Morse Diving Helmet: Serial No.1

The History of Diving Museum displays the largest collection of historical diving aparatus in the world. Out of the hundreds of diving helmets on display, Dr. Sally Bauer (co-founder of the History of Diving Museum) values one helmet in particular as most significant to the museum. The Morse diving helmet, inscribed with the serial No. 1, represents the intrinsic value and rarity of the History of Diving Museum collection. It is the first helmet mass produced in the U.S., and is potentially the most sought after diving helmet in the world. It was manufactured in Boston, Massachusetts during the Civil War era.

Dr. Joe and Sally Bauer acquired the helmet in the early 2000's. At this juncture, the Bauers had been collecting historical diving apparatus for the better part of 30 years. The collection took them to virtually every corner of the world. Sally is quoted as saying, "it is the story of how each item was acquired that makes collecting special." This acquisition has its own unique story that adds to the allure of its history.

There were few collectors with the passion of Joe and Sally Bauer. Known in the diving community for their aggressive pursuit of the rarest historical diving equipment, they were contacted about a helmet worth their attention. The acquisition of this helmet took them to Michigan to a cowboy themed hotel and restaurant. The restaurant was covered with all sorts of items, some with no western theme whatsoever. Amongst many picked items were multiple diving helmets; however, Joe and Sally were there to see one in particular: the Morse helmet inscribed with serial No. 1.

At first glance, Joe and Sally were mortified by the careless storage of a one of a kind artifact; the helmet sat on the 3rd story railing, a casual glance would have sent the helmet crashing to the floor. The Bauers recognized the rarity of the helmet and carefully removed it from the railing.

It is these types of stories that kept the Bauers collecting, and allowed for the inception of the History of Diving Museum. The museum allows for proper care and exhibition of the helmet. It now sits prominently in the "Parade of the Nations" exhibit.

The History of the Morse Company, manufacturer of the first American diving helmet.

The Morse Company was established in 1837, making them the oldest manufacturer of diving equipment in the world. Originally, the Morse Company was a partnership between Morse and Fletcher for the manufacture of brass goods at the corner of Waters and Congress Streets, Boston, MA. In 1864, the firm changed it name to the Andrew J. Morse and Sons Company which it continued to use until 1940. It would later be renamed the Morse Diving Inc.

Morse is one of the most well-respected names in diving. Many artifacts in the History of Diving Museum owe their design to the Morse Company. However, Morse's most significant contribution would come with the production of the most well-known diving helmet ever built, the Mark V. The majority of Mark V helmets were manufactured by the Morse Company. Morse is also credited with manufacturing the next generation Mark 12 free flow diving helmet used by the US Navy for almost 20 years.

Today, Morse Diving is located in Rockland, Massachusetts and remains one of the largest suppliers of commercial and recreational diving equipment.

You can visit their website at


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