Head Company in Baltimore City, 1955. Photo from the Baltimore Museum of Industry.

Made in Maryland: Head Ski Company, Inc.

07/10/2018
By Waxter Intern

Did you know!? HEAD was founded in Baltimore in 1950 by Howard Head who was an aeronautical engineer for the Glenn L. Martin Company and brought new those materials used in aviation to innovate the production and quality of skis and tennis rackets.

Howard Head’s big idea came during a ski trip in 1947. His skis were made of wood even though metal and plastics were materials that were readily available and being used for all types of applications. As an aeronautical engineer, Head knew this and saw the opportunity to use aluminum and plastic laminate on skis in the same way they were being used on aircrafts. The materials are durable yet flexible. After a couple of years of research and development, Head and his team had a product by 1950.

Once the skis hit the market, the HEAD brand took off rapidly. By the 1960s, HEAD was the leading ski manufacturer in the U.S. and the UK, producing more than 26,000 pairs a year. In 1969, Howard Head sold the company to the American Machine Foundry (AMF), and retired to playing tennis, one of his favorite hobbies.

Photo from the Baltimore Museum of Industry.

But before Howard Head officially left, he began researching ways to strengthen a tennis racket’s frame by introducing aluminum into it in 1967 – innovating tennis rackets as he had skis. This idea was an instant success, first introduced and used in the 1969 US Open. Additionally, he researched and developed a wider oversized racket for a bigger sweet spot, which was presented by Prince Sports in 1975.

Photo from the Baltimore Museum of Industry.

In 1985, HEAD was acquired by Minstar Inc. due to a takeover of AMF. Two years later, Head started making athletic footwear, and introduced Radial Tennis Shoes. By 1989, management succeeded in buying out HEAD, Tyrolia, and Mares, which were two other companies that HEAD bought in the 1970s, to form HTM. The buyout was backed by a private equity firm, Freeman Spogli & Co. Four years later, in 1993, HTM was sold to tobacco conglomerate Austria Tabak.

In 1997, HEAD created the first titanium and graphite tennis racket. Today, HEAD is one of the most used and recognized brands in skiing and tennis and it all started in Baltimore City.

MADE IN MARYLAND

Maryland has a proud industrial heritage including being the birthplace of game-changing mechanical inventions and hosting major milestones. In this Made in Maryland series, Preservation Maryland and the Baltimore Museum of Industry, will bring you many, “I didn’t know that was invented here!” moments. The Baltimore Museum of Industry celebrates Maryland’s industrial legacy and shows how innovation fuels ongoing progress. The author is Ross Bater, a Waxter Intern at Preservation Maryland.

Waxter Intern

A legacy gift from William D. Waxter, III established the Waxter Memorial Internship to help Preservation Maryland support the next generation in historic preservation.

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