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[REV 25-NOV-2014]

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Vest Test: 1923

Vest Test: 1923

September 13, 1923. Washington, D.C. "W.H. Murphy of the Protective Garment Corp. of New York stood less than ten feet from [Frederick County, Md.] Deputy Sheriff Charles W. Smith in police headquarters Wednesday and let the deputy fire a .38 caliber revolver straight at his chest. When the bullet hit, Murphy never batted an eye. Inventors ot the bulletproof vest, which weighs about 11 pounds, have put iten the market for the protection of police and other officers in emergency cases. The bullet which Deputy Smith fired into the vest Wednesday was presented to him for a souvenir." View full size. National Photo Company.

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Vested interest

According to news reports, this took place in Potomac Park, just north of the train tracks.

Check the collar brass

The shooter is a Park Policeman.


Kevlar was not as much group effort but rather it was invented by a lady in 1965 by the name of Stephanie Kwolek while she was working for DuPont. So while they get to keep the intellectual rights to her work, it was indeed a single person who is credited with the invention.

[The article you cite does not credit Stephanie Kwolek with the invention of Kevlar. It does, however, note that she is the person who discovered the polyamide solution from which Kevlar fibers are made: "Following this breakthrough many fibers were spun from liquid crystalline solutions, including the yellow Kevlar fiber." - Dave]

The "guy" who invented Kevlar

I suspect the most recent comment is an urban legend. Kevlar wasn't invented by any one person, technically, since it was developed at DuPont by a team of people, but the scientist credited with its discovery is Stephanie Kwolek.


Random fun fact: The guy who invented Kevlar shot himself in the chest while wearing a vest to find out if his product would really work.

What A Sales Rep.

That is a man who is dedicated to closing the deal!

Steve O

This would be the 1920's equivalent of "Jackass".

Steve O is wearing the suit, Johnny Knoxville is pulling the trigger, and Bam Margera is in the white shirt waiting for his turn to fire his pistol.

There is absolutely nothing new. Every "new" idea is a rehash as this proves yet again.

DC Sheriff?

The District has no Sheriff's Office. Prince George's or Montgomery County, maybe?

[Charles Smith was deputy sheriff of Frederick County, Maryland. The demonstration in the photo was in Washington. - Dave]

But the impact...

So the vest prevents the bullet from penetrating. But the torso underneath still absorbs the impact. From accounts, I gather that it's somewhat like being smacked with a baseball bat. Could still be dangerous if the impact centers on the solar plexus or something. I mean, ouchie.

[On a related note (below), don't try this at home. - Dave]

Live Rounds?

Well, the caption suggests this testing was indeed done with live rounds vs. blanks. But despite Mr. Murphy's calm expression, it is hard to believe that "when the bullet hit, Murphy never batted an eye." Color me incredulous.

[There are dozens of news items from 1923 about these salesmen making (and taking) the rounds at various police departments. Also reports of lawsuits filed by a few who experienced wardrobe malfunctions: Pierpont Potter, sales rep for United States Armor and the Bulletproof Corp., sued for $20,000 in October 1923 after a bullet pierced his vest, necessitating multiple surgeries to put him back together. - Dave]

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