Did A Famous Author Invent The Hard Hat?

Whilst most trade workwear comes in a range of styles to fit the needs of a range of workplaces, there are generally at least two constants on any dangerous worksite: the high-vis jacket and the hard hat.

Both of these lifesaving essentials have interesting stories surrounding their creation, but perhaps the most enduring and bizarre is that the inventor of the hard hat is allegedly none other than the enigmatic writer Franz Kafka.

The Czech writer, most famous for mind-bending works such as Metamorphosis and The Trial, appears to be an unlikely inventor for one of the most important pieces of safety equipment in construction and manufacture.

According to management professor Peter Drucker, however, this was indeed the case.

So the story goes, whilst Mr Kafka was working at the Worker’s Accident Insurance Institute in Bohemia, he developed a hard hat that could be used by civilians. This would in turn lower workforce deaths considerably down to 25 per 1000 employees.

However, given Mr Kafka’s disdain for the job, as it took him away from writing, as well as the fact the Institute has no records that prove that he invented the hard hat despite its considerable impact, it seems unlikely this is the case.

Instead, the likelier story is that the hard hat was invented by Edward Dickinson Bullard in 1919. The “hard-boiled” hat was developed in a similar way to more rudimentary protections used in early shipyards, where hats were covered in tar to protect them from heavy objects.

It was made of steamed canvas, glue and black paint and garnered enough attention for the US Navy to commission Mr Bullard to create a protective cap for shipyards.

These early designs, such as the Skullguard, bore a resemblance to the M1917 American military helmet used in the First World War, and by 1931, hard hat use was required for workers on the Hoover Dam.