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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 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.

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18y ago
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15y ago

In 1893, just before the annual Army-Navy contest, a doctor informed Navy Cadet Joseph Mason Reeves that another direct blow to the skull might cause death or "instant insanity." Determined to take the field against his team's arch-rival, Reeves had an Annapolis shoemaker construct a sturdy leather cap to shield his head during the game. Cadet Reeves thus became the first player in history to don a "football helmet" (albeit a rudimentary one). Three years after Reeves' invention, Lafayette College halfback George Barclay made a significant improvement to its design. Barclay was mortally afraid of developing "cauliflower ear" - a byproduct of leaving one's ears exposed to constant collisions - and so he had a harness maker construct three heavy leather chin straps to hold his helmet securely over his hearing organs. The now-famous moniker "head-harness" subsequently emerged from Barclay's innovation. Source:

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14y ago

Yes the very first football helmets were made out of all leather. When football started the players were often called leather heads.

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12y ago

There are a lot of materials used in football helmets some are: leather and molded polycarbonate.

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Q: What were football helmets made of in the 1800s?
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