My thanks go to a friend and fellow collector who kindly gave me tonight’s object. Pith helmets were expensive but fragile purchases for officers at the turn of the twentieth century. They were easily crushed and so it was customary to purchase a special travel case for the helmets that protected them when not being worn. For the officer with money it was possible to purchase a very nice storage tin, with one’s name and posting sign written onto the outside. Tonight we are looking at an example of one of these tins purchased by a Major Berry before he went out to India:The tin is oval in shape and made from tinplate that has been stamped, bent and then riveted and soldered into shape. Sadly this example has suffered over the years and when first discovered had a large dent on one side that has been carefully straightened out. It is by no means restored to new, but does look attractive enough to display now.
The top of the box lid has a carrying handle riveted to it:A metal hasp is fitted to the front of the box to allow the lid to be padlocked shut, a sensible precaution in early twentieth century India where the perception was that thievery was rife:The exterior of the box is enamelled in a light brown shade, the interior though is painted a shade of blue:The box is sign written in two places and the quality of this is first rate, suggesting that this was an expensive item when new. On the lid in black shaded white lettering is the owner’s name ‘Major Berry’:The front is also marked, this time in red shaded gold lettering saying ‘Calcutta India’:This was presumably Major Berry’s posting and this case would have accompanied him out to the Raj and back again. Until 1911 Calcutta was the capital of British India and I suspect this box dates to before the Great War so the Major would have been part of the military presence here.