When you think of people who have changed our lives with their inventions, you may think about Thomas Edison and his lightbulb or Alexander Graham Bell and his telephone. Not many of us would think to include Edward W. Bullard on that list, but 100 years ago – in 1919 – he invented the hard hat, which today is one of the most recognized safety products in the world and is responsible for saving thousands of lives over the past century.
To truly trace the heritage of the hard hat, we have to go back even further to 1898, when Edward Dickinson Bullard founded E.D. Bullard Co. in San Francisco. The company originally supplied carbide lamps and other mining equipment to gold and copper miners in California, Nevada and Arizona. Then, when Bullard’s son, Edward W. Bullard, returned from serving in World War I, he went to work for Bullard Co., combining his understanding of customer needs with his experiences with his doughboy army helmet to design protective headgear for miners.
The young Bullard called his protective headgear design the Hard Boiled Hat because of the steam used in its manufacturing process. The original Hard Boiled Hat was made of steamed canvas, glue, a leather brim and black paint. This invention revolutionized mine and construction worker safety. Edward W. Bullard then took his Hard Boiled design one step further by building a suspension device into the hat, and that became the world’s first commercially available industrial head-protection device.