Dear Dr.,
First off, I love this site.  The combination of helmet and mask has always been a point of interest to me and the way it makes some helmets immediately recognizable-Theisman's up-turned single-bar; the Namath cage; Alan Page's grill; etc.-They are included in MY football memory the same way "Wide right", or "The perfect season" may be in others.  Keep up the good work!!
OK, now my question.  I hope you can give the definitive answer about why they stopped bolting masks on the helmets, and began using the clips.  Was it safety?  Ease of changing/mounting?  Both? Neither?
Thanks again!!!


Dear Sir:
First of all I just love the your term "Alan Page's grill" -- sounds like a perfect description for the Dungard full cage facemask.

In the late 1950s and early 1960s the most popular "cage" type facemask used by the pros was made by Schutt. The facemask was offered in various styles that attached directly to the helmet shell with screws and t-nuts at four points -- (2) points at the top and at each side. It seems hard to believe today but back in that era one of the biggest injury concerns was that a player would, after a big hit, swallow his tongue and choke to death. I can remember as a young player (okay a scrub) back in those great old days looking in the trainers box and seeing a mid-evil looking corkscrew device that was to be used to free up the tongue should it ever be accidentally swallowed during play. Although we all greatly feared this injury it never seemed to occur. Getting back to your question, (us old geysers can really digress when we reminisce about our "hero" days on the gridiron) in the early 1960s Schutt redesigned their mask so that it was still attached directly to the helmet at the top two points but the sides of the mask now used attachment clips (made from the same plastic used to coat the mask) to join the mask to the helmet shell. In the event of an injury to the face area the side attachment clips could be quickly cut by a trainer's knife and the mask bent upwards giving the trainer quicker access to the facial area where time could be crucial especially if the player was choking on his tongue. This seemed like such a good idea that Schutt by the mid 1960s also replaced the two direct upper attachment points with attachment clips. This allowed the trainer to completely remove the mask by simply cutting the four attachment clips which were now made from molded vinyl. Also, in the event of a neck injury the mask could be removed without moving the helmet or the head. Although it was not scientifically recognized until the late 1970s an even greater benefit had resulted from Schutt's mid 1960s decision to use facemask attachment clips. It was discovered that in head on collisions the attachment clips acted like shock absorbers reducing the force of impact to the players head and neck area. One of the first things John Phillips did when he became the head equipment manager of the Kansas City Chiefs in the early 1980s was to throw away all Dungard masks because, unlike Schutt facemasks, they were bolted directly to the helmet shell at the top attachment points. The Chiefs subsequently realized a significant reduction in neck related injuries. Schutt improved the their facemask's shock absorption abilities even further in the early 1980s when they received a patent for "reverse" direction positioning (compared to the conventional positioning) of the side facemask attachment clips.


Dear Doc:
I have a laundry list of little questions to ask, so I figured I could assemble them into one letter. First let's tackle the NFL helmets.  I've seen some 49ers helmets on this website from the late '50s and the early '60s, and they're silver instead of gold. Knowing that they have gold helmets nowadays, did they ever have gold helms at all during the teams inception in the late '40s or anytime during the '50s?  If not, when did they finally turn gold?  Also, have I been seeing things, or have I seen the Steelers wear yellow-gold helmets as recently as the '60s?
Now onto the really fun stuff, the college helmets.  I have seen a University of Texas helmet from 1961 on your site, and it has the longhorn logo on it.  Was this the first year for that logo, or had it been put on in previous years?  Had it been used anytime at all during the '50s?  I know that in the '50s, as shocking as it may be to some, Alabama had white helmets instead of crimson, having gone over to those around 1960.  Likewise did Oklahoma have white helmets that decade, too.  How about Texas A&M?  Where theirs white in the '50s, too, or did they stay maroon even then?  What color were they when Bear Bryant was coaching there from1954-'57?  Last but not least, I have often wondered what the colors were for the helmets of the UNC Tarheels in the '40s and '50s; I can only imagine how interesting Carolina Blue would look on helmets of those respective vintages.  Does my imagine portend to any extent what was actually used for that team?  Any help with any of these questions would be extremely appreciated.

     Sorry if it seems to be too long; I just had a lot of questions to get off my chest.  But I would appreciate it very much if you could answer any of these.  If the "laundry list" is too long, gut the NFL questions; I'm much more interested in the college helmets.  Thanks for all your help, and I'll look forward to finding the answers to these inquiries in the next installment of Dr. Del Rye's answers.  Keep up the good work!




Dear Sarge:
No problem -- let's get to it and knock them all down. The following is a recap of the early 49ers helmet styles:

1946.....................Solid White (leather)
1947 -- 1949......... Gold with Red "suspension pattern" trim (leather)
1950 -- 1952..........Solid Gold
1953 -- 1955..........Red with Silver center stripe
1956.....................Solid White
1957 --1959...........Solid Gold
1960 --1961...........Silver with (3) Red Stripes
1962 --1963...........Silver with (2) Red side stripes (1) White center -   stripe and "SF" logos

(note - in 1964 the helmet color changed to gold and the striping and logos remained unchanged)

The Steelers did wear yellow / gold helmets through the end of the 1962 regular season.  They first wore black helmets in the "runner up"
bowl game against the Lions after the 1962 regular season was over.

1961 was the first season Texas wore the Longhorn logo (with the player numerals on top of the logo) on their helmet. In 1967 the numerals were moved to the back of the helmet. During the entire 1950s both Oklahoma (with a center red stripe) and Texas A&M (with a  center maroon stripe) wore white helmets. In the late 1950s both teams added rounded font style player numerals to the sides of their helmets. North Carolina wore solid white (leather) helmets in the 1940s. The helmets remained white in the 1950's but early in the decade the team added a ram's horn design (see picture). In the mid 1950s the ram's horn was replaced by (2) medium blue side stripes and in the late 1950s the team added a navy center stripe.


Dear Dr. Del ,

I recently acquired a Marietta K 112 suspension Raiders helmet that has never been drilled for a facemask . In your opinion , would that be more rare than an unused team issue helmet with a facemask ? Also , how many teams may have had players that used Marietta helmets and how would I determine the age ( date ) of the helmet .

I enjoy the site regularly and hope to learn more about vintage helmets in the future !

C Waters

Dear C.:
Those old Marietta suspension helmets are great pieces. They were not widely used by the pro teams but you will find that some players from the late 1950s and early 1960s Steeler's teams wore them including running back Dick Hoak. Also some players from the early Cowboys teams, such as Bob Lilly, and a few players for the Dallas Texans / K.C. Chiefs used Marietta suspension helmets. The Dallas based pro teams used them more than other pro teams did probably due to the fact that the Marietta company was based in Dallas, Texas and in close proximity to the team's players and equipment managers. Marietta suspension helmets were very popular among the colleges in the Southwest. Virtually all the players on the early 1960s University of Texas teams wore Marietta helmets. Looking only at game photographs it is very difficult to distinguish the Marietta helmets from the more prevalent Riddell suspension helmets. Both companies used similar shaped shells and rivet positions however the flared sides of the famous Riddell "RK" shell was slightly more pronounced than its Marietta counterpart. Compared to each other the exterior appearance of both Riddell's and Marietta's rounded -- non flared shaped shell model ("Tru Kurv" for Riddell) look virtually identical. Riddell put a few more finishing touches into their helmets including painting the inside of the shell medium gray and providing higher quality leather jaw pads. When trying to make a determination from a game photograph a general clue that a suspension helmet might be a Marietta rather than a Riddell model is the absence of the famous Riddell gray colored plastic one or two bar facemask. Marietta produced their own distinctive style of white and bone colored plastic face masks that were generally used on their helmets although occasionally the more popular Riddell masks were sometimes substituted for use on the Marietta helmet. The Marietta company went out of business in the early 1970s and its equipment was purchased by investors who formed the Maxpro helmet company in the late 1970s. The original Marietta helmet molds were modified by Maxpro to produce the clear shell Maxpro "Kineomatic-21" helmets that were made famous by players such as Roger Staubach, Terry Bradshaw, Joe Greene and many other Steelers from their 1979 and 1980 Super Bowl teams.      

Sorry for my usual rambling on but in response to the first part of your actual question the manufacturing date for Marietta helmets was not stamped into the shell and unlike the Riddell helmet it is virtually impossible to determine the month and year the helmet was produced. The general era of the helmet can be determined by comparing the model number with old Marietta catalogs if you can find them.

In regard to the second part of you question I would suggest that based on simple logic a "facemask" era helmet that has never been drilled for a facemask will always be more rare than a helmet that has been drilled for a mask. You may be unnecessarily complicating the comparison by adding the condition that the drilled helmet has also not been game worn. Or maybe you intentionally meant to include that condition which just might make it one of the greatest cerebral questions of all time and one that is definitely way over this old DR's head.

Dr; What year did the Eagles stop painting the wings on their helmets and switch to a decal?
Philip S. Gellott

Dear Philip:
Your question is quite straight forward and can be quickly answered.
However to do so in that manner and leave out the interesting "story behind the story" would be a disservice to our loyal readers (okay, I admit it. The real reason for the longer version is that I get paid by the word)

The Eagles had the painted silver wings on their helmets through the 1968 season.

In 1969 The Eagles switched to white helmets with green decal wings for home games and Kelly green helmets with white decal wings for road games. This was the first time an NFL team had ever intentionally alternated two different helmet designs during the season dependent on where the game was being played. The two helmet scheme lasted only one year (most players get quite comfortable with one helmet during the season and don't enjoy switching between different helmets from week to week) and in 1970 the team retired the Kelly green helmet. The white helmet with the green decal wings was used though the 1973 season. In 1974 the team returned to the Kelly green helmets with white trimmed silver decal wings and they retained that style through 1995.

The Riddell factory created the original Eagle silver wing helmet by first painting the entire shell silver then applying a decal type wing pattern. The entire shell was then repainted Kelly green and then the decal or pattern was removed revealing the famous painted silver Eagle wing. In 1969 Riddell introduced a new helmet shell design that would now be molded in several different colors including Kelly green. With a few exceptions the old style shell design was molded only in standard white and had to be painted to match team colors such as was done for the Eagles through the 1968 season. In 1969 by coupling the now available molded Kelly green shell with a decal wing rather than a painted wing the team totally eliminated the need to paint any part of their helmet which made them much easier to maintain. Unfortunately, according to our humble opinion, this  manufacturing progress compromised the great character that was so evident in the original Riddell factory painted Eagle silver wing helmet.