Friendship 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 the eastern United States, possibly in Philadelphia, during the first half of the 19th century. The hat is painted black overall, with the text “FRIENDSHIP/1830” painted in white with red shadowing on the front of the hat. The back of the hat has the letters “F.A” framed in white. The Fire Association of Philadelphia was an insurance company founded by a group of eleven volunteer engine companies and five volunteer hose companies in 1817.
Currently not on view
Object Name
hat, fire
date made
Physical Description
painted (overall production method/technique)
green (overall color)
red/gold (band around crown color)
gold (lettering and decoration color)
fabric, pressed felt (overall material)
paint (overall material)
overall: 5 1/4 in x 12 5/8 in x 13 1/2 in; 13.335 cm x 32.004 cm x 34.29 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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