Wilson Leather Football Helmet, circa 1940s

Presented is a vintage Wilson football helmet from the 1940s. Constructed of light brown hardened leather, this helmet is fiber-reinforced and features molded ear flaps, vented with holes. The helmet has crisscrossing black leather straps along the top and is sewn with white thread in a running stitch. It is a classic example of the early football helmet designs worn before WWII. 

In the early 1900s, small soft leather skull caps appeared as optional headgear worn by few players. In the ten years between 1920 and 1930, the caps became larger, to protect more of the head, and incorporated ear flaps. The 1930’s saw the introduction of hardened leather helmets and earflap holes became more standardized, so players could hear what was going on. At this time, wearing helmets in games was optional. It wasn’t until 1943 that the NFL instituted a rule requiring all players to protect their heads.

A major change in the history of football helmets came in 1939 when John T. Riddell introduced the first plastic helmet. It became immediately popular, but then production dropped off as all plastic in the US went towards the war effort. After WWII ended, plastic was once again available, and in 1949 the NFL mandated that all players wear helmets made of this more durable material. Plastic facemask bars were added in the 1950s, and by 1962 every player in the game was wearing a helmet. 

Wilson Sporting Goods was incorporated in 1913 as the Ashland Manufacturing Company, using discarded meatpacking byproducts to create strings for tennis rackets, violins, and sutures for surgeons. Sensing a surge in the popularity of sports, then-President Thomas E. Wilson bought out an upstart sports manufacturing company named Ashland and began to focus exclusively on the manufacture of sporting and athletic equipment. He named the company after himself in 1916. In 1918, new president L. B. Icely acquired the Chicago Sporting Goods Company and struck a deal to supply the Chicago Cubs with uniforms. The company went on to design the Ray Schalk catcher's mitt and create some of the first leather flat-top football helmet designs. Wilson worked with famed Notre Dame coach Knute Rockne to introduce the double-lined leather football, first valve football, and the first waist-line football pants with pads. During World War II, it introduced the Wilson “Duke” football, which was adopted as the official ball of the National Football League. 


Hard leather helmet. With expected wear from past use, including dents, surface scratches and rubbing of leather. Stamped “Wilson” logo and “Made in USA” on front panel. The model number "D236" and size and make "7 1/4 Full-Fiber Reinforced" is engraved along the back panels. 

Dimensions: 8.5" H x 8.5" W x 8" D

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