Morris Hose 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 hat dates to the middle of the 19th century. The hat is painted black overall, with the text “MORRIS/HOSE” painted in gold with red shadowing over a painting of a rising sun and clouds. The date “1831” is painted in gold on the back of the hat, and the name “J Lee” is painted in gold on the crown of the hat. The Robert Morris Hose Company was founded on March 14, 1831 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. A successful Philadelphia merchant and Revolutionary leader, Robert Morris signed the Declaration of Independence, the U.S. Constitution, and played a major role in financing the American Revolutionary War.
Currently not on view
Object Name
hat, fire
date made
Physical Description
fabric, pressed felt (overall material)
paint (overall material)
painted (overall production method/technique)
overall: 6 in x 13 1/2 in x 12 in; 15.24 cm x 34.29 cm x 30.48 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
Additional Media

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