Good Will 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. This black hat has been painted black overall, with the text “GOOD WILL/1802” painted in gold on the front of the hat. The back of the hat has the company’s initials “G.W.” painted in gold, and the owner’s initials “G.B.” on the top. The Good Will Fire Company was founded in the Northern Liberties area of Philadelphia in 1802, which at the time was a separate municipality.
Location
Currently not on view
Object Name
hat, fire
date made
1810-1860
maker
unknown
Physical Description
painted (overall production method/technique)
fabric, pressed felt (overall material)
blue (overall color)
red (under brim color)
gold (lettering color)
paint (overall material)
Measurements
overall: 5 1/2 in x 11 1/2 in x 13 1/4 in; 13.97 cm x 29.21 cm x 33.655 cm
place made
United States
ID Number
2005.0233.0049
catalog number
2005.0233.0049
accession number
2005.0233
subject
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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