AngelFame Fire Hat

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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.
The hat is painted blue overall, with a central image of a flying angel (or alternately an allegorical representation of Fame) blowing a trumpet with a sunburst in the background. The portrait is framed in gold, flanked with banners above and on each side. The name of the original company appears to have been obscured by blue paint in the banners, but there is a paper tag on the inside that reads “THE PROPERTY/HARRY NEEL.”
Location
Currently not on view
date made
1810-1860
associated, owner
Neel, Harry
maker
unknown
place made
United States
Physical Description
fabric, pressed felt (overall material)
paint (overall material)
painted (overall production method/technique)
Measurements
overall: 11 7/8 in x 13 1/8 in x 5 3/4 in; 30.1625 cm x 33.3375 cm x 14.605 cm
ID Number
2005.0233.0112
catalog number
2005.0233.0112
accession number
2005.0233
Credit Line
Gift of CIGNA Museum and Art Collection
subject
Angels
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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