Franklin 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 was used in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania during the first half of the 19th century. The hat is painted black overall, with a portrait of Benjamin Franklin painted inside a golden oval frame on the front. The portrait is flanked by red banners with gold trim that reads “FRANKLIN/HOSE COMPY” in gold. The back of the hat has the date “1838” painted in large gold numbers. The crown of the hat has the owner’s initials “J.S.” Franklin Hose Company was founded in Philadelphia in 1838, with its firehouse on Broad Street near Fitzwater. Benjamin Franklin was well known for organizing the first volunteer fire company in Philadelphia, and his image and his name were popular among the city’s fire companies.
Location
Currently not on view
date made
c.1840-1860
associated
Franklin Hose Company
depicted, commorated
Franklin, Benjamin
maker
unknown
place made
United States
Physical Description
painted (overall production method/technique)
fabric, pressed felt (overall material)
black (overall color)
red (underbrim color)
gold (decorative trim color)
multicolored (decorative painting color)
paint (overall material)
Measurements
overall: 6 3/4 in x 12 in x 13 1/2 in; 17.145 cm x 30.48 cm x 34.29 cm
ID Number
2005.0233.0039
catalog number
2005.0233.0039
accession number
2005.0233
Credit Line
Gift of CIGNA Museum and Art Collection
subject
Franklin, Benjamin
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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