Vintage Football Helmet with Leather Chin Strap c.1950
An original vintage football helmet with a single bar face mask. The helmet is black with a gold stripe running down the center, white face bar, leather chinstrap and leather cushion on the forehead and back of the head. A "small" tag is located inside the helmet. The piece has retained its original finish and is in good condition with appropriate patina for its age. The helmet has some scratches and the chin strap is broken on one side.
- CREATOR Unknown.
- DATE OF MANUFACTURE c.1950.
- MATERIALS AND TECHNIQUES Hard Plastic, Leather, Padding, Fabric.
- CONDITION Good. Wear consistent with age and use.
- DIMENSIONS H 9 in. W 7 in. D 11 in.
One of the first instances of football headgear dates to 1896 when a college halfback began to use straps and earpieces to protect his ears. It is not certain who invented the football helmet.
One innovation from the early 1900s period was hardened leather. 1917 marked the first time helmets were raised above the head in an attempt to direct blows away from the top of the head. Ear flaps also had their downfall during this period as they had little ventilation and made it difficult for players to hear. The 1920s marked the first time that helmets were widely used in the sport of football.
In 1939, the Riddel Company of Chicago, Illinois started manufacturing plastic helmets because it felt that plastic helmets would be safer than those made of leather. Plastic was found to be more effective because it held its shape when full collision contact occurred on a play. These helmets were also much more comfortable and had more padding to cushion the head in an impact. Included with the plastic helmet came plastic face mask, which allowed the helmet to protect the entire head. By the mid-1940s, helmets were required in the NFL. They were still made of leather, but with improved manufacturing techniques had assumed their more familiar spherical shape. The NFL initially allowed either plastic or leather helmets, but in 1948 the league outlawed the plastic helmet, considering the hard-plastic material to be an injury risk. The NFL repealed this rule in 1949, and by 1950, the plastic helmet had become universal in that league