This standard diving dress helmet came to the museum from Captain Charlie Lehman, who was inducted into our National Rivers Hall of Fame in 1995!

Captain Lehman was a waterway industry leader who worked on the river in many capacities. He was a tankerman and pilot, a barge industry official with American Commercial Barge Line Company and a government resource to create legislative and regulatory industry affairs for the waterways. One legacy of his work was unifying the navigation rules overseeing the operation of towboats and barges on Inland Rivers, Western Rivers, and the Great Lakes.

Captain Lehman also served in the US Navy at the beginning of the Korean War for 4 years in the Pacific. This diving helmet was made for the US Navy in 1949. This type of helmet was attached to a waterproof canvas suit that had diving weights and an air hose connected to the surface. Captain Lehman may have used this helmet or one like it, possibly as a diver himself or assisting other Navy divers during the Korean War. When he donated it to the museum, he referred to it as a “deep sea or river diving helmet.”

These types of diving suits were used through the early 1980s by the US Navy for any task requiring long periods of time underwater such as salvage work, underwater civil engineering, and commercial diving. Captain Lehman’s diving helmet may have been used in the ocean, diving rigs like this were also important tools for underwater work in rivers like investigating boat wrecks or inspecting locks and dams.