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Innovation on Display

NIHF and Bullard Co. Celebrate the Invention of the Hard Hat

At the National Inventors Hall of Fame® (NIHF), we have the distinct privilege of honoring some of our nation’s greatest inventors – our NIHF Inductees.

The NIHF Museum, located inside the United States Patent and Trademark Office, offers a variety of interactive exhibits where visitors can learn more about our incredible Inductees and the impact of their innovations on our society.


Celebrating the Life of Edward W. Bullard

New to the museum this year is an exhibit that celebrates the contributions of Hall of Famer Edward W. Bullard and his invention, the hard hat. As the first commercially available industrial head protection device, his lightweight, non-conducting hard hat design was sturdy enough to withstand many falling objects and has since become a mandatory piece of personal protective equipment for millions of workers around the world.

This lifesaving legacy continues to this day through the Bullard® company, founded by the inventor’s father, Edward Dickinson Bullard, in 1898. Today the company manufactures personal protective equipment that is used worldwide, as well as fire helmets, respirators and thermal imaging cameras.

Created in collaboration with the Bullard company, our “100 Years of Hard Hat Protection” exhibit features a Bullard 100th Anniversary Platinum Hard Hat made in 2019 to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the hard hat entering production.

A Family Tradition

At NIHF’s 2022 Induction Ceremony, Wells Bullard, Edward W. Bullard’s great-granddaughter and Bullard company CEO, told the story of the invention of the hard hat.

“He had returned from service in World War I and was working in our family’s San Francisco mining supply company,” Wells said. “He noticed that while the soldiers he had served alongside had standard-issue protective helmets, miners did not. As a result, many of those miners often suffered work-related head injuries. Gramps was an inventor who was passionate about worker safety ... and he applied that passion to this problem.”

Bullard described how her great-grandfather created and patented the protective head gear, which was constructed with layers of canvas glued together using a steam process, giving the hard hat its original name, “the Hard Boiled Hat.”

“And to celebrate the Bullard company’s more than 100 years of hard hat protection, you can visit a brand-new exhibit dedicated to this invention in the Hall of Fame Museum,” Wells said to those in attendance.


Learn More About the NIHF Museum

To stay up to date on the latest NIHF Museum exhibits and to learn more about what our museum has to offer, we invite you to visit our blog.

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