Bullard Safety Helmets – 1898
Today’s Throwback Thursday sends us back to 1898 with the founding of the E.D. Bullard Mfg. Company in San Francisco, California. The company, founded by Edward “E.D.” Bullard, began by selling mining equipment and carbide lamps to copper and gold miners.
Miners during this time period wore canvas caps with a leather trim. The miners would brush a layer of tar over their hats and dry them in the sun to form a hard outer shell. E.D. Bullard’s son, E.W. Bullard, realized the need for an improved safety hat. In 1919, he invented the “Hard Boiled Hat” after returning from World War 1 with a steel helmet. The Hard Boiled Hat was made using canvas, glue and black paint. Later the same year, the U.S. Navy requested improved hard hats for shipyard use and Bullard was eager to improve upon his product.
In 1931, construction workers were required to wear hard hats for the first time while building the Hoover Dam. Workers sandblasting needed further protection and, in 1933, Bullard designed a hard hat that protected workers faces with a mask. These hats had a cover over the face and a clear window to see through. The covered hat had an air supply provided by a compressor.
By 1938, the canvas material was replaced by aluminum and the helmets were now being used by a variety of fields, most recognizably by firefighters. Firefighters had previously worn leather helmets and were given the nickname “Leatherheads”. These early helmets did not provide much protection, but instead served the purpose of identifying the firefighter. The new helmets, produced by Bullard and made of metal, were more durable and offered significant protection.
Hard hats were further improved on over the years with stronger materials and with specialized features for specific job requirements. In 1998, Bullard introduced the first thermal imager. Law enforcement uses this thermal imaging for search and rescue and to locate hidden compartments. Bullard continues to manufacture safety equipment, air quality equipment, respirators, thermal imaging, and, of course, helmets.
The Past Antiques Marketplace at Nature’s Art Village has an early Bullard Fire Helmet available and a large variety of antique and vintage firefighter and mining memorabilia for sale. Visit The PAST Antiques on Route 85 in Montville, Connecticut to see our full supply of antiques and vintage collectibles.
Check back next week for another Throwback Thursday!