L.G. 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 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.
Location
Currently not on view
Object Name
hat, fire
date made
1860s
maker
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)
Measurements
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
2005.0233.0108
catalog number
2005.0233.0108
accession number
2005.0233
subject
Fire Fighting
Cultures & Communities
Art
Work
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
listed
McCosker, M.J.. The Historical Collection of the Insurance Company of North America
Additional Media

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