How Were Hard Hats Invented?

Being hard-headed isn't always a bad thing. In fact, as far as the construction trade goes, it's crucial. Before we had hard hats, workers getting killed on the job was by no means an unusual phenomenon. Miners, builders, welders, etc. all went head-to-head with major risks when they stepped onto the job site despite having no real way to protect their domes. Before workers had well-crafted protective shells to shield their heads from any and all hazards, they would slather regular hats with tar and leave them out in the sun to harden (via Pro Choice Safety Gear). Naturally, this only went so far in the way of safety, but what other choice did they have?

It wasn't until the 1920s that production of sufficiently manufactured hard hats designed especially for construction workers was finally underway. According to Mental Floss, it was a man named E. W. Bullard who patented the very first model in 1919.  

E. W. Bullard and World War I

A veteran of World War I, E.W. Bullard designed the first "hard-boiled hat" after the wartime helmets he and other servicemen were issued overseas. The protective shells were meant to deflect bullets, shrapnel, and other dangerous elements flying through the air on the battlefield. In place of tar, Bullard applied a thick coat of black paint over steamed canvas to create a protective head piece, later adding internal suspension for additional protection (via Mental Floss).

In 1931, construction of the mighty Hoover Dam commenced and all workers commissioned were required to wear Bullard's finely-crafted "hard-boiled hats" while on the job. The Dam's Chief Project Engineer Joeseph Strauss declared the helmets mandatory in order to protect workers from falling rocks and debris as they rappelled down the canyon wall. Though over 100 men lost their lives over the course of the five-year project, experts agree that the number would have been far greater had it not beed for Bullard's carefully thought out protective hard hats (per Pro Choice Safety Gear).