The tools, rules, and relationships of the workplace illustrate some of the enduring collaborations and conflicts in the everyday life of the nation. The Museum has more than 5,000 traditional American tools, chests, and simple machines for working wood, stone, metal, and leather. Materials on welding, riveting, and iron and steel construction tell a more industrial version of the story. Computers, industrial robots, and other artifacts represent work in the Information Age.
But work is more than just tools. The collections include a factory gate, the motion-study photographs of Frank and Lillian Gilbreth, and more than 3,000 work incentive posters. The rise of the factory system is measured, in part, by time clocks in the collections. More than 9,000 items bring in the story of labor unions, strikes, and demonstrations over trade and economic issues.
"Work - 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 fire helmet was made by Cairns & Brother of New York, New York in the early 19th century. The leather helmet is painted black with eight combs and ivy vine scroll work around the helmet’s brim. The back of the helmet has the initials “FA” flanking a fire hydrant painted in gold. This was the logo of the Fire Association of Philadelphia, an insurance company founded by a group of eleven volunteer engine companies and five volunteer hose companies in 1817. The metal frontpiece holder is in the shape of a fox, and holds a black and red frontpiece that reads “MITCHELL/IV/FIRE CO” in white text. Mitchell Fire Company No. 4 was founded in 1874 by shoemakers who were located on Federal Street in Burlington, New Jersey. The frontpiece is not original to the helmet.
- Currently not on view
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- Cairns & Brother
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- National Museum of American History, Kenneth E. Behring Center