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hard hat bullard 

Hard Hat Turns 101; Impact on Industrial Safety Never Gets Old 

By John Hitch
via the web site

Luckily for industrial workers everywhere, Lt. Edward Wheatley Bullard of the U.S. Cavalry climbed out of the French trenches with an idea that would spark the industrial safety movement: the hard hat. Bullard, the son of a mining equipment supplier, was inspired by the metal helmets Doughboys wore to deflect the hail of bullets raining down on them courtesy of the Kaiser. When he returned home, he invented the first commercially available industrial hard hat, called the Hard Boiled hat. Prior to its invention and subsequent production in San Francisco, gold and copper miners in California and Nevada basically wore leather caps—which might not be all that good at stopping hail, let alone the rocks or tools potentially pouring down on them.

Now a century later, Bullard's great granddaughter, current Bullard CEO Wells Bullard, recounts how this now 100-year-old equipment was invented and how it redefined protecting the workforce.

NED: What's the Hard Boiled Hat's origin story?

Wells Bullard: My great grandfather, E.W. Bullard, was exposed to miners his whole life because his dad supplied them with equipment such as carbide lamps. When he was in the U.S. Cavalry during World War I, he wore one of those metal doughboy helmets in the trenches, so he came back and pointed out to his dad that miners were only wearing canvass caps at that point, and they faced very similar hazards to what he saw in the war. For miners it was falling rock and ore, or tools dropped by workers higher up in the mine.

As an inventor, he was very user focused and understood the miners couldn’t afford metal helmets. And metal was a lot heavier and they didn’t need to be protected against bullets. So he invented the Hard Boiled Hat, which was made with steamed, or hard-boiled, canvass, leather, glue, and a very elementary suspension. It was shellacked with black paint. 

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