Ringgold Hose Company 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.
This fire hat dates to the first half of the 19th century. The hat is painted black overall with a painted portrait of Samuel Ringgold in the center framed in gold. Red banners with gold trim flow around the portrait that read “RINGGOLD/HOSE Co.” in gold paint. The company’s initials “RHC” are painted in gold script on the back of the hat. The owner’s initials “H.M.” are inside an outline of a shield on the crown of the hat. This hat was likely used by a member of the Ringgold Hose Company of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, founded in 1847. While many firefighting companies chose past heroes of the Revolution as their namesakes, others selected contemporary military and political figures. Samuel Ringgold was a hero of the Mexican-American War best known for his innovations in artillery deployment. He was mortally wounded at the Battle of Palo Alto in 1846.
Location
Currently not on view
date made
ca 1846
associated
Ringgold Hose Company
depicted (sitter)
Ringgold, Samuel
maker
unknown
place made
United States
Physical Description
painted (overall production method/technique)
fabric, pressed felt (overall material)
paint (overall material)
Measurements
overall: 6 1/2 in x 11 1/2 in x 10 1/2 in; 16.51 cm x 29.21 cm x 26.67 cm
ID Number
2005.0233.0115
catalog number
2005.0233.0115
accession number
2005.0233
Credit Line
Gift of CIGNA Museum and Art Collection
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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