Kensington Fire Hat

Description
Beginning in the late 18th century, some volunteer fire fighters began to wear hats painted with their company’s name to identify themselves at chaotic fire scenes. During the 19th century, these fire hats became more ornate, as portraits of historical figures, patriotic scenes, allegorical images, or company icons were painted alongside the company’s name, motto, or founding date. Made of pressed felt, these “stove-pipe” hats were primarily used in Philadelphia, but other nearby cities such as Baltimore and Washington adopted them as well. Fire hats were personal items with the owner’s initials often painted on the top of the hat. While these hats were worn at fires, they are more colloquially known as “parade hats.” Fire companies commonly marched in the many parades of the period and these ornate hats contributed to the visual culture of their day. These distinguishing features in a company’s regalia often proclaimed the members’ cultural and political identity as well as their position on contested topics such as work, religion and immigration.
This fire hat dates to the first half of the 19th century. The hat is painted black with gold bands around the top and base. "Kensington" is painted in gold above the date "1791." The number "1" is painted in gold on the opposite side, and the owner’s initials “W.H.C." are painted in gold on the top of the hat. The Kensington Fire Company was founded in 1791 in the Kensington neighborhood of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. At the time, Kensington was a separate municipality, and this company was the first of its kind for the area.
Location
Currently not on view
Object Name
hat, fire
Object Type
Hats
date made
1810-1860
associated date
1791
maker
unknown
Physical Description
painted (overall production method/technique)
black (overall color)
gold (trim color)
paint (overall material)
fabric, pressed felt (overall material)
Measurements
overall: 7 in x 11 1/2 in x 13 1/2 in; 17.78 cm x 29.21 cm x 34.29 cm
place made
United States
refered to
United States: Pennsylvania, Philadelphia
ID Number
2005.0233.0103
catalog number
2005.0233.0103
accession number
2005.0233
subject
Fire Fighting
Fraternal Associations
See more items in
Home and Community Life: Fire Fighting and Law Enforcement
Cultures & Communities
Work
Clothing & Accessories
Art
Fire Hats
Firefighting Collection
Data Source
National Museum of American History, Kenneth E. Behring Center

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