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 19th century. The leather frontpiece was made by John M. Migeod & Son of Philadelphia and added to the helmet at a later date. The red helmet has eight combs with the date “1830” painted in gold on the rear brim. The frontpiece is white with the text “COLUMBIA/5/AH” in raised letters on the front. The initials “AH” likely were the initials of the helmet’s owner. This helmet is one of the few red hats within the CIGNA collection. While helmet color could identify a firefighter's company rank and apparatus assignment, it was also an outcome of personal preference or the fire department's financial ability and willingness to buy more expensive helmets.
- Currently not on view
- date made
- 19th century
- John M. Migoed & Son
- Cairns & Brother
- Migeod Company
- ID Number
- accession number
- catalog number
- Data Source
- National Museum of American History, Kenneth E. Behring Center