After winning the Franco-Prussian War of 1870/71 King Wilhelm Friedrich Ludwig of Prussia was crowned as the first emperor of the German Empire. The victory over the arch-enemy France kindled a glorification of war and all things military in the German society. In nurseries and schools children and adolescents were drilled to accept the “heroic” values of obedience, discipline, order, courage and a sense of duty. The most popular pastime of children from almost all layers of the German society were “garden battles” and nursery wars. The childhood war games were nothing less than re-enacting real warfare in the nursery.
Department store catalogues offered various uniforms for children as well as military caps and helmets, rifles, sabres and bayonets. Children’s helmets were offered in several styles, materials and prices; the range went from very simple helmets made of stamped cardboard for 80 Pfennige to elaborate metal helmets or 2 Mark. For very poor families cheap printed model sheets were on offer so that their children would be able to make their own uniform parts and helmets. The price of these model sheets was just 10 Pfennige, much cheaper than the ready-made helmets, so that even the children of the poor would not have to abstain from taking their place in the popular war games.
As everyone else in the German Empire, the Papier- und Schreibwaren-Verlag Josef Scholz (makers of printed matter and stationery) adapted their product portfolio to the “Zeitgeist”, the spirit of the age. The two models reproduced here are from the private collection of Tobias Damberger. He has also written an article "Der Krieg begann im Kinderzimmer" (war began in the nursery), published in the AGK annual magazine "Zur Geschichte des Kartonmodellbaus", vol. 18, page 25 (see the 1st page of this article as an excerpt). In this article you will also find the building instructions for both helmets.
Children with cardboard “Pickelhaube” helmets (image dated September 1914)