Good Will Fire Company 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 leather hat dates to the first half of the 19th century. The hat is painted blue overall, with a metal band along the brim, and the text “GOOD WILL” painted in gold on the front of the hat. The crown of the hat bears the owner’s initials “C.B.” in gold. The hat is the deviation in style from the traditional Philadelphia-style “stove-pipe” top hat. Though the name was a common one, a label in the hat indicates it was from the Good Will Fire Company, which was founded on March 27, 1802 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
Currently not on view
Object Name
hat, fire
parade hat
date made
Good Will Fire Company
Physical Description
painted (overall production method/technique)
leather (overall material)
paint (overall material)
overall: 4 1/2 in x 11 1/4 in x 11 3/4 in; 11.43 cm x 28.575 cm x 29.845 cm
United States: Pennsylvania, Philadelphia
ID Number
catalog number
accession number
Fire Fighting
Fraternal Associations
See more items in
Home and Community Life: Fire Fighting and Law Enforcement
Cultures & Communities
Clothing & Accessories
Fire Hats
Firefighting Collection
Data Source
National Museum of American History, Kenneth E. Behring Center


Add a comment about this object