The very first known gas mask manufacturer was the German company Siebe, Gorman and Co which started as a manufacturer of diving suits and breathing helmets in 1819. Patents for air purifying inhaler devices were issued by the US Patent office FFP2 mask China as early as 1849. While these devices did not prevent the inhalation of any poisonous gasses they were highly effective for use in coal mines and for firefighters. The simple manufacturing process was usually performed by a small group of men operating in someone’s backyard.
The H.S. Cover Company, named after its founder, produced cup-type masks that covered the mouth and nose but left the eyes exposed. Founded in 1894, this company manufactured cup-type masks until the advent of World War One when it converted to manufacturing gas masks for the US Army. The company was still alive and prospering as late as the 1970’s when it was the oldest gas mask manufacturer in the USA.
The Drager breathing apparatus, devised in 1903 and manufactured by the Drager Company of Germany, became so popular in the mine rescue business that the term “dragerman” became a synonym for an underground mine rescue worker. The company still exists today and claims to have manufactured over two million protective masks for the German Armed Forces during World War One.
Today there are companies that manufacture gas masks in almost every industrialized nation of the world. While the business has always been brisk to supply a country’s armed forces with air masks, the terrorist acts of 9/11 gave the entire industry a boost. When the anthrax attacks happened shortly thereafter, small gas mask manufacturers became big companies overnight. Major corporations like 3M, Moldex and Goodrich all jumped on board and started manufacturing some form of gas mask designed more to quell the fears of a nervous population than anything else. Because there have been no large scale chemical or biological attacks on major population areas since the end of WW1, there has never been a case where the use of gas masks has resulted in saving the lives of large masses of people. Still, gas mask manufacturers continue to do a brisk business selling protection to the public.