Fairmount Fire Company Fire Hat

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 was used in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania during the first half of the 19th century. The hat is painted red overall, with a central image of a fountain with a statue of a woman and long-necked bird in an oval frame flanked by aqua-colored banners with the gold text “Fair Mount.” William Rush created this statue “Nymph and Bittern” to commemorate the completion of the Centre Square Water Works, providing Philadelphia with public water that was a boon to the city’s fire fighters. The back of the hat features an image of a yellow fire hydrant on a brown background inside a golden oval, flanked by the letters “FA” in gold. This was the logo of the Fire Association of Philadelphia, an insurance company founded by a group of eleven volunteer engine companies and five volunteer hose companies in 1817, of which Fairmount was a member. The Fairmount Fire Company was founded in 1823 and operated in the Spring Garden area of Philadelphia.
Location
Currently not on view
date made
1820-1860
maker
Shotwell & Garden
original artist
Rush, William
place made
United States
location of the fountain on the hat
United States: Pennsylvania, Philadelphia
Physical Description
painted (overall production method/technique)
fabric, pressed felt (overall material)
red (overall color)
multicolored (painting color)
gold (decorative trim color)
paint (overall material)
Measurements
overall: 14 1/2 in x 5 1/4 in; 36.83 cm x 13.335 cm
ID Number
2005.0233.0036
catalog number
2005.0233.0036
accession number
2005.0233
Credit Line
Gift of CIGNA Museum and Art Collection
subject
Nymph and Bittern
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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