Where did the hard hat come from?


Tar hat. Skull bucket. Hard-boiled hat. Know what we are talking about? The hard hat, of course.

It’s not a fashion statement but it is a fashion staple around CHS thanks to our Terminal Redevelopment and Improvement Program. There are a few hundred hard hats roaming the airport property on any given day and that made us wonder … who invented the hard hat?

So we asked Google and discovered two answers to the question.

The first is a fella named Franz Kafka. In 1912 Kafka is said to have developed the first civilian hard hat while he worked at the Worker’s Accident Insurance Institute in Bohemia. But there’s little documentation to verify that. Credited most often is the Bullard company, an international 100-year-old family owned manufacturer of safety gear, particularly hard hats for construction and firefighters, which is headquartered in Kentucky.

“In 1915, my grandfather began work on a helmet that could protect miners from falling objects. He based it on the doughboy, a helmet he’d worn as a soldier in World War I,” said Edward D. Bullard, the company’s CEO and president on the company web site.

“The original ‘Hard Boiled® hat’ was manufactured out of steamed canvas, glue, a leather brim, and black paint,” he said. “My grandfather built a suspension device into what became the worlds’ first, commercially available, industrial head-protection device.” The first construction site that required hard hats for workers was the Hoover Dam in 1931. The second was the Golden Gate Bridge in 1933.

Early manufactured hard hats were made of aluminum and fiberglass. Today the hard hat comes in many colors, yellow and white among the most common, and is made of lightweight but durable polyethylene plastic that is easy shape in the manufacturing process and does not conduct electricity.

Want a bit of construction bling on your hard hat? There is a hat for you.

Manufacturers can equip hard hats with mirrors, face shields, rain channels, sun visors and cloth lining to catch perspiration.

For those who can’t go anywhere without technology in their pocket, we mean on their hard hat, you can order one with a radio, pager, walkie talkie or camera.

The most common thing you will find on a hard hat has a practical purpose: Hard hat stickers are used for everything from identifying workers and the company that employs them to highlighting worker training, qualifications and touting favorite athletic teams.


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