L.G. Fire Hat

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 middle of the 19th century. It was originally painted blue, and then varnished, and the varnish has turned hat color dark green. There is a faded red banner on front with illegible gold lettering. There are two fragments of newspaper attached to inside of the hat, dated Aug. 1, 1839 and Aug. 1, 1833. On the top of the hat the initials “L.G.” are painted in gold. The hat was made by James Hill, a Philadelphia hatter, around 1860.
Currently not on view
Object Name
hat, fire
date made
Hill, James
Physical Description
blue (overall color)
gold (trim and lettering color)
paint (overall material)
painted (overall production method/technique)
fabric, pressed felt (overall material)
overall: 12 3/4 in x 14 1/4 in x 14 1/4 in; 32.385 cm x 36.195 cm x 36.195 cm
place made
United States
ID Number
catalog number
accession number
Fire Fighting
Cultures & Communities
Clothing & Accessories
Fraternal Associations
Firefighting Collection
Fire Hats
See more items in
Home and Community Life: Fire Fighting and Law Enforcement
Fire Hats
Firefighting Collection
Data Source
National Museum of American History, Kenneth E. Behring Center
Credit Line
Gift of CIGNA Museum and Art Collection
McCosker, M.J.. The Historical Collection of the Insurance Company of North America
Additional Media

Visitor Comments

Add a comment about this object

**Please read before submitting the form**

Have a comment or question about this object to share with the community? Please use the form below. Selected comments will appear on this page and may receive a museum response (but we can't promise). Please note that we generally cannot answer questions about the history, rarity, or value of your personal artifacts.

Have a question about anything else, or would you prefer a personal response? Please visit our FAQ or contact page.

Personal information will not be shared or result in unsolicited e-mail. See our privacy policy.

Enter the characters shown in the image.