Eagle 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 fire hat was used in Trenton, New Jersey during the first half of the 19th century. The hat is painted black overall, with the text “Eagle Fire/Co.” in gold paint with red shadowing on the front of the hat. The back of the hat features a yellow image of a wooden fire hydrant flanked by the date “1821.” The crown of the hat has the owner’s initials “W.D.L.” in gold. This hat likely belonged to a member of the Eagle Fire Company of Trenton, New Jersey that was founded in 1821.
Currently not on view
Object Name
hat, fire
date made
Eagle Fire Company
Physical Description
painted (overall production method/technique)
fabric, pressed felt (overall material)
dark blue (overall color)
gold; red (decoration color)
paint (overall material)
overall: 6 in x 12 1/2 in x 14 in; 15.24 cm x 31.75 cm x 35.56 cm
place made
United States
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


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