Auction Item Details

Lot 27

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Lot Number: 27

Description: Exceedingly rare c.1903-04 Spalding "Pneumatic Head Harness" football helmet. Exceptionally rare style is believed to have only been in production for around (2) years (c.1903-04) and is among the rarest football related artifacts we have handled. On the heels of a ruling by the Intercollegiate Football Association (IFA) that required changes to early helmet design a patent application was filed by Julian Curtiss of A.G. Spalding Bros. in November of 1902. The IFA had been concerned that helmets which were in use at the time were effectively turning players into battering rams allowing those who wore them to inflict damage upon opponents that rendered their use all but unfair. The Curtiss design was the first which featured built-in protection for both the wearer and opponent. His "Head Harness for Foot Ball Players" incorporated an inflatable rubber tube in the crown of the then popular Chicago style head harness. The new model debuted in the 1903 Spalding catalog as the "Pneumatic Head Harness." It would remain in production through 1904 however proved to be so labor intensive to produce that the model priced itself out of the range of most buyers. In addition, the inner tube was known to often pop after only limited use. The result is a surviving population of only a handful of known examples with the offered being the first we have ever brough to auction. Relative to both age and rarity the helmet remains in outstanding overall condition with some minor natural drying and scattered surface cracks. Exterior crown pad is fully intact and the interior crown has a well pronounced "Apr.7.1903" patent date. The interior ring which would have held the inflatable ring has some tears and areas of loss but remains over70% intact. A faint but legible Spalding mark is inside. Chin strap is present but appears to have been sewn back together long ago at the bottom of one ear flap. An exceptional survivor and likely the only opportunity the helmet collecting base will have to acquire an example for many years: VG

Estimated Price Range: ($5,000-$10,000)

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