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History of the Football Helmet

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, who 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. Want to know about early football scoring?? click here.


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Photographs of old time players and Helmet styles 1890-1949
(as we find different teams and styles we will add them) (Send us some)

  Bear Bryant - Alabama Red Grange - Illinois and Chicago Bears Bill Dudley - Pittsburgh Steelers
Bronko Nagurski - Minnesota, Bears , Giants Red Cagle - Army Bob Herwig - California Howard Hooper - Centenary
George Trafton - Washington, Chicago Bears "Crazy Legs" Hirsch - Washington, LA Rams "Crazy Legs" Hirsch - 1948 Rams Unidentified Team
Unidentified Team Tony Amato - Oregon Francis Cope - Santa Clara Joe Stewart - Auburn
Frank Gantt - Auburn John Wiatrack - Washington Huskies Northwestern Wildcats John Yerby - Oregon
Oscar Saunders - V.M.L. Ed Goddard - Washington State Four Horsemen 1924
Notre Dame
Forrest Towns - Georgia
Ed Ryckley - Georgia Tech George Trafton - Washington, Chicago Bears Red Grange & Ohio State Captian Cecil Isabell - 1945 Green Bay Packers
Grocho Harvard Chris Dal Sasso - Indiana Iowa
?? Jim Thorpe - Carlisle, Canton Bull Dogs Kentucky Michigan State 1929
Bill Hazel - Mississippi Walt Ziemba - Notre Dame "Morrel Nose Guard" Otto Graham - North Western, Cleveland Browns
Tom Silvano, Penn. St. Marshall Goldberg - Pittsburgh Frank Filchock - Red Skins Sammy Baugh - T.C.U., Red Skins
Jerry Shipkey - Steelers Tom Harmon - University of Michigan Floyd Spendlove - Utah Vince Lombardi
cagle 2 Ace Parker NY Dodgers leather Football helmet
Wake Forest Elmer Logg - Washington Chris Cagle Army 1920s Ace Parker NY Dodgers 1937-41
Tenn leather helmet Yale White leather foot6ball helmet Four Horsweman leather football helmet  
Tennessee 1930-40s Leather Helmet Yale White Leather helmet 1920-30-40s 1922-1924 Notre Dame Style helmet Silver Helmet Georgis 190s-40s
  nose guard    
  Morrell Nose Guard 1880-1907    
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