First Recorded Use of a Football Helmet

by Vic Winnek


I ran across this fact thought I'd share: As football began to evolve in the latter part of the 19th century, the absence of protective gear and the lack of well-defined rules resulted in an alarming number of gruesome injuries and even fatalities.

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"

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Dec 12, 2012
Re: Earliest headgear
by: phil allen

A challenger to Joe Reeves' earliest headgear? There is a fabulous action photograph--just the sort you wouldn't expect from 19th century cameras--from the Yale-Princetion game of 1893.

It 'shows' a Tiger lineman at left of center, and he seems to be wearing some kind of head gear. (The term 'head harness' allegedly came about because George Barclay [Lafayette '96] had his almost-first topper made by a harness maker.)

Jul 05, 2015
Citing of above photograph
by: Phil Allen

I neglected to provide a citing for the photo taken at the Yale/Princeton 1893 game, showing a player possibly wearing headgear: please refer to Parke H. Davis' Football. The American Intercollegiate Game.(Scribner's;1911), opposite page 397. This is, by the way, one of THE GREAT texts on American football. Thank you.

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