Hey Doc:

What's with those little gold and black numbers on both the Philadelphia Eagles (Bednarik) and Pittsburgh Steelers yellow helmet? Did these teams originally get these from a company in PA or is it because they were at one time merged into one team, the Steagles?
Keep Rollin,
Dear Carl:
Thanks for bringing up an interesting nuance in the world of helmet numbering. The digits you are referring to are 1" tall gold and black water slide decals (rather than vinyl). They were offered as an accessory in the Riddell catalog starting in the 1950s. It was very difficult and confusing for a player, especially in the pre face mask days, to locate his specific helmet after it was thrown together in a pile of helmets such as during a water break or on the sideline bench. The small numbers helped to alleviate this problem without disrupting the team markings or color scheme on the helmet. Check out some football photos from the 1950s era and you will find that many teams including the Giants, Lions and Redskins. Also many colleges such as Army used these same digits. The only pro teams that continued to use them into the 1960s were the Eagles and the Steelers.

Dear Doc:
Can you shed any light on the unique color design found on the early 1950 Eagle helmet? Were they trying to make the helmet appear to have wings and just did not get it right?


Dear Tommy:
I think the early 1950s plastic Eagle helmet is one of the most interesting designs from that era. If you research Eagle helmets from the 1940s you will find that the team primarily used MacGregor leather helmets which construction consisted of a series of various shaped leather stitched panels. For team orders MacGregor offered, as an option, to dye the different panels in team colors (or the team could just paint the well defined panels themselves) . When the Eagles switched to plastic Riddell helmets in the early 1950s they superimposed the now popular design and color scheme from leather Macgregor paneled helmet onto the plastic Riddell shell. 

Hey Doc,

What is the history of the Patriot's "Minuteman Hat" helmet and why was it only worn for a year?


Dear Doug:
As you mentioned in your question the Pat's "Minuteman Hat" design was only used on the Patriot's helmets during the 1960 season. In 1959 before the team played its first game a hiking Pat character (shortly thereafter named "Pat Patriot") appeared in a 1959 editorial cartoon by Boston Globe artist Phil Bissell. The team's original owner, Billy Sullivan, got permission to use the character for free and it became the team's first logo, appearing on everything from stationery to stock certificates but not on their helmets. The "Pat Patriot" logo became so popular during the Patriot's first season that Sullivan decided to also display it on the team's helmets, replacing the "Minuteman Hat" design, starting in 1961. 
Check out the current Helmet Hut exclusive in which Helmet Hut introduces the original "Minuteman Hat" helmet to current head coach Bill Belichick. Bill was pleasantly caught off guard (which does not happen very often with him) as he was completely unaware that the team ever wore the "Minuteman Hat" design on their helmets.   BILL BELICHICK & THE SUPER BOWL PATRIOTS


Dr. Del Rye,
I noticed on some older, sixties helmets, and on one of your reproductions from that era, that the helmet decals were very thin, almost like electrical tape? I was wondering how those decals were made, or were they in fact, electrical tape put on by the teams' equipment managers? How are these decals made today? Thank you and continue the work you have done on this great site.

Dear Alvin:
During most of the 1960s helmet decals were made from a thin mil vinyl material that had very similar characteristics to conventional electric tape. The backing on the decals indicated that the material was manufactured by the 3M Corporation. The vinyl material came in different colors and the color was imbedded throughout the thickness of the material. These decals were fabricated using three different methods as explained below: (1963 NFL and AFL teams that used vinyl helmet decals are listed by method)
1) Silhouette style decals  Logos were individually die cut from lengths of one color adhesive backed thin mil vinyl sheets. Examples: Bears / Colts / Cowboys / Giants / Lions / Bills / Broncos / Jets / Oilers
2) Silhouette style decals (with contrasting trim) The primary logo section was individually cut from lengths of one color adhesive backed thin mil vinyl sheets. The contrasting trim sections were also individually cut from lengths of various colored (as needed) adhesive backed thin mil vinyl sheets. The finished decal was created by overlapping the primary logo and contrasting trim sections in a pattern dictated by the decal design. Examples: Packers / Redskins / Chargers
3) Multicolor (detailed) style decals Multiple logos were ink printed on the exterior surface of a length of white, thin (almost paper-like), adhesive backed material. The material's exterior surface was then covered with a thin protective coat of clear shellac. Finally the multiple logo designs were die cut into individual decals. Examples: Forty Niners / Steelers / Chiefs / Patriots / Raiders  
In the late 1960s the Brady Corporation developed a new method to produce decals. The first step consisted of printing (in reverse image) multiple logo designs on the inside surface of a clear (and thicker mil) length of vinyl. Step 2 consisted of applying clear adhesive to that same surface. Finally, a strip of non stick paper backing was applied over the adhesive and each logo design on the length of vinyl was die cut into individual decals. The Brady method allowed complex logo designs to be used without the need to overlap different colored vinyl pieces or be printed on the vulnerable exterior surface of the decal.


I remember hearing once that Fred Williamson had a collection of the helmets he had split. How many helmets did he
actually break with his "Hammer" move and did he really collect them?

Neal F. Guye
Coos Bay, Oregon


The Hammer is what they called him and for good reason.  Fred has 5 sons and each of them have one of their father's cracked helmets.  So to answer your question.... at least five!   Working with Fred recently we learned the reason for his unusual mask set up.  Very simply he said "It was to keep those pulling guards from giving me an upward forearm rip".  Fred angled his two bar mask upward and attached a single bar directly below.