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George O. Barclay

Section D; # 240

Born: May 16, 1876

Died: April 3, 1909

George Barclay played football as a student at Lafayette College and is credited with inventing the first football helmet which he began wearing in 1894. At no more than 5’9” and 160 pounds, he was smaller than other players. Football players of that era wore no body protection other than shin-guards or a knitted cap. In order to protect his handsome head and avoid “cauliflower ears,” Barclay designed special headgear that consisted of three heavy leather straps. His invention attracted national attention at a game in 1896 when Lafayette not only upset a very powerful Penn team, but went on to become the national champions that year. In front of 12,000 fans at that game George “Rose” Barclay stepped in for the team captain and led the team to a 6–4 point victory, scoring all the points himself.

That same year Lehigh refused to play against Barclay, accusing him of being ineligible under a new agreement signed earlier in the year. Barclay had played professional baseball which Lafayette contended was legal under this agreement but Lehigh disagreed. Thus, “the most played series” missed their games in 1896. Barclay dropped out of school, played professional football for a while, and then went to dental school. He returned to Lafayette as a coach for the 1908 football season, but died shortly thereafter of appendicitis. George Barclay was inducted into the Lafayette College Maroon Club Hall of Fame (1984-1985.)