The history of the leather football helmet is unique. The First helmets were created in the 1890s. Before that helemets were not worn. The earliest helmets were made of fine tanned leather mainly of Cow, & Horse hides. Later after 1900 and only up toill 1905 some of the softer shell helmets were made of tanned pig . But mainly cow hide ... saddle quality versions were used from the 1890-1940 eras of the leather football helmet. More interesting information about the helmet history can be found on the Past Time Sports history site at There, they explain and show examples of the earliest leather football helmets from the beehive Dogear style , the flat top style and the Dogear heavy style into the most recognized 1920-1940 Red Grange era styles and patterns. This is a comprehensive place to view and research leather football helmets at Pasttimesports.biz A history and tradition more than 100 years old. The leather football helmet has it’s origin more than100 years ago first worn in an 1893 Army-Navy game. An Annapolis shoemaker created the first helmet for Admiral Joseph Mason Reeves out of tanned Cow hide. Reeves had been advised by a Navy doctor that he would be risking death or “instant insanity” if he took another kick to the head. Later in 1896 Lafayette College halfback George Barclay so feared the fabled cauliflower ear on his “hearing organs”, which he felt was a direct cause of playing bare-headed, that he had a playing hat made. His design was a special headgear which was held to his head by three heavy leather straps fashioned by a harness maker, thus giving the first football helmets the nomenclature “head-harness”. The Golden Era - The helmet as we know it today has undergone many changes in its 100 years. Helmets were not mandatory until the 30’s. Most of the 1890--1915 games were actually played without helmets. It was not unusual to see half of the early players with helmets and half without. Around World War I the helmets were so flimsy that they were often mistaken for aviator caps. Year by year more padding was added and from the 1920’s thru 1940’s, considered the Golden Age of college, pro and high school football — helmets, like the ones we are offering here, always were strictly of leather construction. Flying wing, colors and targets - Another interesting fact was that nearly all of the games in this era were played in unadorned helmets —school logos colors and mascots were rarely used. As the great rivalries grew colleges and high schools began to hand-paint their helmets. The idea was that the simple colors, in the first days of the forward pass, allowed receivers to finally be distinguishable to the quarterback when they were heavily covered and far down the field. Not until 1948 was the first logo, the Rams horns, painted on a pro leather helmet. Soon after, practically every college, pro and high school team put their logos and mascots on their helmets. But the great old leather helmet was spared much of this “clutter” as it’s days faded into history before 1950. Visit Past time Sports at for great reaseracgh info.
In the earliest days of football in the 1860s some players simply tied a bandana around their heads. There weren't even leather football helmets then. In those days there were brutal plays. Players actually trampled on opposing team members, yet there was no protection for players' heads. 18 deaths were reported. The earliest leather football helmets were invented by a Navy player in 1893 after his doctor warned him that one more kick to the head could kill or paralyze him for life. The player asked a local blacksmith to improvise a leather harness hat to protect his head. Thus the first football helmet was born. Soon other players created additional styles of leather football helmets to protect their heads and ears. Styles included the early beehive leather football helmet, the flat-top leather football helmets, and the dogear leather football helmet. The colors began to show up on early 1940s leather football helmets. Before that most helmets were plain natural leather either brown, cordovan, or black. Color leather football helmets allowed the quarterback to better see the receiver at long distances when he was far down the field. So more and more teams began to paint their leather football helmets to put some visibility sizzel into their games. Gradually in the late 1940s the leather football helmet began to be replaced by early plastics. However many of the early plastic football helmets shattered and caused injury. So, the leather football helmet survived through the World War II years and lingered into the early 1950s. Some pooreer high school teams and JR high teams used old leather helmets right into the 1960s and 70s. But gradually the old leather football helmet was replaced by the plastics.
Early helmets were flat topped leather headgear without ear holes and face masks. Today's helmets are molded plastic with face masks and ear holes and chin straps. The future of the helmet is said to be one that attaches to the shoulder pads that will better protect the neck and head. Click on the 'History of the Football Helmet' link on this page to read about the evolution of the football helmet.
History has recorded that Navy Cadet Joseph Reeves was the first player to wear a helmet. In 1893, just before the annual Army-Navy contest, a doctor informed him that another shot to the head might cause death or permanent damage. Reeves asked an Annapolis shoemaker a make a leather cap to protect his head during the game. Mass production of football helmets started in the late 1910s. Two companies, Spalding and Rawlings, started making helmets with straps of fabric in a crossing pattern inside the helmet that acted as sort of a suspension system. This helped soften the blow by distributing the impact force in a more even fashion, and also provided ventilation to the head to keep the player a little cooler. Riddell Company patented the first plastic football helmet in 1939.
Early Roman helmets were made of brass, a malleable alloy of copper and zinc. Later helmets were made of bronze, a very strong, hard alloy of copper and tin. Still later some helmets were made of iron, which is not as strong as bronze but was easier to find. The Romans worked some of their iron with carbon, but they are not thought to have developed true steel.
Early racing helmets were made out of stuffed leather tubes and looked something like a string of sausages placed in lines over the head. But once the step was made over into Styrofoam helmets design changes have been more down to colors and graphics. Today there are four types with a distinctly different look: 1) Time Trial (TT) and track helmets. Drop shaped with sort of a tail tapering off down the back of the rider. They often have integrated visors and no air vents. They're more about aerodynamics than protection. 2) Full Face or DH helmets. Plenty of padding, some vents and an integrated arch that protrudes in front of the jaw to offer face protection. 3) Dirt/street helmets. Fairly round helmets with a sturdy plastic outer shell. The only kind that'll keep offering decent protection even after a fall. 4) ordinary fitness helmets. Plenty of air vents, no face protection, maybe a small integrated cap. Is meant to be scrapped after any significant fall.
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