Visit any construction site or distribution facility, and you'll likely see workers wearing safety vests, work boots, and the ubiquitous hard hat. Though perhaps the most recognizable safety product worn at job sites today, the hard hat is a fairly recent addition to the protective-work-gear lineup, marking its 100th anniversary just this year.
A Cynthiana, Ky.-based protective-equipment manufacturer named Bullard claims credit for the invention. According to company lore, the founder's son, E.W. Bullard, returned from World War I with the idea of adapting his iconic "doughboy" army helmet for use as protective headgear for miners. The result was the "Hard Boiled hat," introduced in 1919 for industrial and emergency-response applications.
The hard hat has evolved over the decades from a leather-and-fabric contraption to the lightweight polyethylene-plastic version we know today. "The original 'Hard Boiled hat' was manufactured out of steamed canvas, glue, a leather brim, and black paint," said current CEO Wells Bullard in a statement. "My great-grandfather built a suspension device into what became the world's first commercially available industrial head-protection device. We may take it for granted today, but we are proud to be celebrating 100 years of an innovation that truly helped our country grow and keep the hard-working women and men who built it safer."