as of 12/05/13
All current production DESCO helmets
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Light Duty Diving Outfit
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sold by DESCO
Composite Beat Engel Demand Helmet
as of 12/04/13
& Viking price lists.
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What gear it takes to dive.
What goes into making a diving helmet
Real or Replica?
Features of the various helmet models
General product history. Catalogs, significant orders, etc.
DESCO A, B, C Rebreathers Recirculating Helmets
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How DESCO started
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and photos from our archives
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hobby diving photos
Photos of helmets from
Photos of equipment in museums
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DESCO Historical Item Collection
Miscellaneous Photos, Old diver and/or equipment photos
Helmets and equipment on display in museums.
You never know where you will stumble across historical diving equipment. Here in Wisconsin maritime museums dot the shoreline and some have diving gear with a story to tell the visitor. If you find yourself in the Great Lakes region make it a point to check for any maritime museums near by.
Explaining "Jake" Rigs
A jake rig is a complete diving outfit displayed as it would be worn. The rig will include a helmet & breastplate, dress (suit), gloves or mitts, weighted shoes, weightbelt, and diver's knife.
There has always been the question of why a display outfit is called a "Jake". Recently that question was again posed to Leslie Leaney, past president of the Historical Diving Society USA and publisher of the Journal of Diving History. Here is the text of an e-mail response to the question:
Dear Bill, Leon and Ric,
Not conclussive evidence but pretty palusible.
(NOTE: The text below did appear in #70 Winter 2012 issue of The Journal of Diving History, In The Mail column)
The following background is from Torrance Parker’s book 20,000 Jobs Under The
Sea. “So, in 1882 the Navy started its first training program for divers. The
Navy’s first diving instructor was Jake Anderson, a civilian employee. Anderson
had previously retired from the Navy as a chief gunners mate, and then had
become a civilian diver. Now, as a civilian, he was back with the Navy as their
diving instructor.” Anderson was still the Navy diving instructor 23 years later
in 1905 when Frank Meier entered the training program. In his book
Up For Air, Meier
recalled “I remember him as one of the best natured men I ever met. He was a
good deal older than any of the six youngsters assigned to his boat, but he’d
never lost his sense of humor – could take a joke and hand one out as well as
the next fellow. Working with him was a mighty pleasant experience.”
None of the above is conclusive evidence that the term originated from Jake
Anderson, but I feel it to be the most plausible explanation. The Journal is
happy to publish any alternative views or additional information. - Leslie
Door County Maritime Museum
Sturgeon Bay, WI
The jake below is in the Door County Maritime Museum in Sturgeon Bay. It is part of a larger exhibit of the Roen Salvage Co. office and recompression chamber. DCMM preserves the maritime history of Door County with its main museum in Sturgeon Bay, a commercial fishing museum in Gills Rock, and as caretakers of the Cana Island Lighthouse.
Sturgeon Bay is a shipbuilding center. Peterson Builders was a premier builder of wooden minesweepers for the US Navy. Bay Shipbuilding continues the traditions forged by Leatham Smith and Christy Corporation. Palmer Johnson is a worldwide leader in yacht construction.
Photos by William Pelky
The helmet is a Morse Commercial four light. Interestingly it has Mark V side windows instead of the standard oval windows. It has the Morse low mounted telephone cup and front high communications elbow, with the cable clamp. The dress is a DESCO. DCMM also has a recompression chamber made in 1943 by Sturgeon Bay Shipbuilding & Dry Dock.
Rogers Street Fishing Village Museum
Two Rivers, WI
This diving outfit is on display at the Rogers Street Fishing Village Museum in Two Rivers. Rogers Street Fishing Museum preserves the commercial fishing heritage of Two Rivers in several fish sheds along the river. Part of the museum is dedicated to the Kahlenberg Company and the diesel engines that powered most of the commercial fishing fleet on the Lakes. They also preserve the genealogical history of the French families who settled in this area.
Photo by William Pelky
This helmet is a little dearer to our heart. It is DESCO Mark V serial #1955, dated 12/1/44. Unfortunately I am ignorant of this rig's story but I hope to rectify that.
Wisconsin Maritime Museum
Wisconsin Maritime Museum in Manitowoc has a extensive collection of maritime artifacts from the area. Manitowoc was a significant shipbuilding center and built 28 submarines during WWII. It is home to the USS Cobia. The jake rig at WMM is part of a larger display of various maritime artifacts. The helmet is a Morse breastfed three light commercial. It has matching numbers and looks complete. Also in the display is a very old Morse telephone and a hand crank air pump (mfg ?). This equipment was used by Manitowoc marine contracting firm McMullen & Pitz.
Photos by William Pelky
We contacted Leon Lyons (the go to guy for historical diving information) and asked him to look at the photos. Here is what he said:
The breastfed Morse is kind of a rare bird to find, especially in a nice matching condition. From the serial number, it should be circa 1910. Hats were ordered with or without the comm's in the early days, and most likely without, for they were just another added expense for the diver. The two clamps in front, one for the air hose, and one for the safety line.
The weight belt has been advertised in the Morse catalog, and 20 years ago, or more, I was wanting weights to be made for my belt, not to make another one.
Know nothing about the comm box, first one I've seen like that, and it's name plate, so has to be early, compared to other name plates I have on comm boxes.
The one cylinder pump, was the hand crank arm and handle on it, could not see it in the photo, only the wheel ?? If both are there, an older style I have here, the big fly wheel is on the other side. Also, each end of the crankshaft is different, so that the fly wheel only goes on one side. That could be a pump that had two fly wheels. Looking at the front of the pump box, you can see where the Morse plaque has been removed, and possibly the model plaque of the pump, just above the name plaque. All the iron corners around the box, all look like they have been removed, for I think I can see screw holes, up and down, on each end. Right now I cannot say how to distinguish, or rather describe the difference between the Morse and Schrader pumps, for I have never owned a Schrader, and only photographs, and in other collections have I seen them. I only have a Schrader pump box here from the late 1800's, which is quite rare, and I wish the pump was still in the box.
Maritime Museum of the Atlantic
Halifax, Nova Scotia
A friend was traveling on vacation and visited the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic in Halifax, Nova Scotia. He photographed two helmets on display there. If you look close in the photo on the left you will see the top of a Browne Utility Helmet too.
We contacted the curator seeking information on these helmets. Below is his reply.
Dear Mr. Pelky,
If you find yourself in the Halifax area stop in and see these helmets.