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 A History of Leather Football Helmets 
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Post A History of Leather Football Helmets
A History of Leather Football Helmets
by: Jason Forthofer




Football helmets were widely disputed upon their introduction. Many simply viewed them as a nuisance, they made their heads sweat, they shifted from side to side, and they didn’t help much. It wasn’t until the later 1930’s that people began to get serious; games between 1890-1950 are usually shown with some people wearing helmets and some not. It was personal preference. But in 1939 college leagues voted to make helmets mandatory and in 1943 the NFL joined them. Wikipedia shows that the “last player to play in a game without a helmet was probably Dick Plasman of the Chicago Bears.” There is a picture of him in 1940 after a Washington Redskins victory without a helmet on.

College halfback, George Barclay designed a leather helmet or “head harness” with three heavy leather straps. Created by a harness maker, his helmet was made to prevent the deformation of the ear or “cauliflower ear” which he believed came from the roughhousing of playing bareheaded. Helmets gained padding and shape from the 1920’s through the 1940’s, especially when Vern McMillan introduced the facemask. Fastened in the 1930s, it was a simple rubber-covered wire mask attached to the front of the leather helmet in an effort to prevent broken noses and teeth.

Teams played for years in unadorned helmets as they struggled for the right fit, but as school spirit raged and rivalries grew, colleges and high schools began to hand paint their helmets to show team spirit. Initially, only colors were used, their headgear painted as a marker for quarterbacks when searching to find their receiver. In 1948 Fred Gehrke shook things up when he introduced the first logo, painting a proud design of the Rams on the side of his team’s helmets.

Robert Zuppke, an innovative Illinois coach, reinvented the leather helmet in 1917, transferring the simplicity of pads to the art of suspension. He used straps of fabric to form a pattern inside the helmet, cradling the skull, while absorbing and distributing the impact instead of simply offering an extra layer of protection. It was a breakthrough in football, providing ventilation and introducing Rawlings and Spalding to the love of the game.


About The Author
Jason Forthofer is the owner of Get Football Helmets which sells leather football helmets and NFL football helmets for all 32 NFL teams. http://www.getfootballhelmets.com/nfl-l ... lmets.html




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Fri Feb 25, 2011 11:30 am
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