Clothing & Accessories
Work, play, fashion, economic class, religious faith, even politics—all these aspects of American life and more are woven into clothing. The Museum cares for one of the nation's foremost collections of men's, women's, and children's garments and accessories—from wedding gowns and military uniforms to Halloween costumes and bathing suits.
The collections include work uniforms, academic gowns, clothing of presidents and first ladies, T-shirts bearing protest slogans, and a clean-room "bunny suit" from a manufacturer of computer microchips. Beyond garments, the collections encompass jewelry, handbags, hair dryers, dress forms, hatboxes, suitcases, salesmen's samples, and thousands of fashion prints, photographs, and original illustrations. The more than 30,000 artifacts here represent the changing appearance of Americans from the 1700s to the present day.
"Clothing & Accessories - Overview" showing 1 items.
- The traditional American leather firefighter’s helmet with its distinctive long rear brim, frontpiece, and crest adornment was first developed around 1821-1836 in New York City. Henry T. Gratacap, a New York City luggage maker by trade, is often credited as the developer of this style of fire helmet. Gratacap created a specially treated leather helmet with a segmented “comb” design that led to unparalleled durability and strength. The elongated rear brim (also known as a duckbill or beavertail) and frontpiece were 19th century innovations that remain the most identifiable feature of firefighter’s helmets. The body of the helmet was primarily designed to deflect falling debris, the rear brim prevented water from running down firefighters’ backs, and their sturdy crowns could aid, if necessary, in breaking windows.
- This leather helmet was made by Cairns & Brother of New York, New York in 1837, and has been paired with a leather frontpiece manufactured by John M. Migeod & Son. The helmet has a metal ring on its rear brim as well as a metal reinforcement band inside its crown. The frontpiece from “Moyamensing 1” bears a crossed hook and ladder and may belong to Chester, Pennsylvania’s Moyamensing Hook and Ladder Company No. 1, instituted in April of 1868 and incorporated in February of 1870. The word “JOKER” is painted at the bottom of the frontpiece.
- Currently not on view
- date made
- mid 19th century
- Migeod Company
- Cairns & Brother
- ID Number
- accession number
- catalog number
- Data Source
- National Museum of American History, Kenneth E. Behring Center