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AntiqueFootball Artifact of the Month
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September 2019
c.1912-1923 Wendell Patent Nose Mask

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Circa 1912-1923 Wendell Nose Mask
Legendary Auctions, August 2008
Wendell Patent Nose Mask Ad, 1912 Spalding Football Guide
Patent Illustration, Patent 1,043,649 “Nose Guard”
P.L. Wendell,submitted January 17, 1912
My September 2019 Artifact of the Month is one of the rarest styles of football nose masks, a circa 1912 Wendell Patent Nose Mask.

In 1912, Percy Langdon Wendell, the "Famous line bucker and Captain of Harvard's 1911 Foot Ball Team," invented a mask that protected the nose and reduced the risk of damage to the front teeth. Wendell's design replaced the rubber mouthpiece found in the Morrill nose mask with two strips of leather that were gripped between the wearer’s side teeth. According to Wendell’s 1912 specification in support of U.S. Patent No 1,043,649, not only did his guard reduce the “strain and shock” to the front teeth, it also allowed for “breathing through the mouth without raising the mask.”

The Wendell Patent Nose Mask first appeared in the 1912 Spalding Football Guide as the No. W (regulation size) and the No. WL (extra-large size) and continued to be listed for sale for $0.50 through the mid-1920’s. The Wendell Mask came to market as nose mask popularity and use waned. As a result, few examples of the No. W survive today.

The guard bears the text "Patent Applied For" on the forehead and "Ptd. Nov. 6, 1912" on the inside of the nose. It is unknown if these two marks refer to one another or if an additional patent application was pending after 1912. This particular example has features not found in other surviving examples. The leather gripping strips described in Wendell's patent has been replaced with two rubber strips that appear to be factory-made and not a homemade modification. It is possible that this variant may be a later enhancement of the Wendell design.

Football Nose Masks
The story behind football's most unusual protective device