Hand-in-Hand 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 the eastern United States during the first half of the 19th century. The hat is painted black overall, with the text “Hand in Hand/Fire/Co” painted in gold on the front of the hat, and the image of two clasped hands shaking in gold on the back of the hat. The “hand in hand” name and clasped hand symbol were popular among volunteer fire fighting companies and fire insurance companies during this period. It symbolized the mutual assistance needed to combat fires and the fraternal ties of fire companies prevalent in early American communities.
Location
Currently not on view
date made
1810-1860
maker
unknown
place made
United States
Physical Description
painted (overall production method/technique)
fabric, pressed felt (overall material)
black (overall color)
gold (lettering color)
paint (overall material)
Measurements
overall: 6 in x 13 in x 12 in; 15.24 cm x 33.02 cm x 30.48 cm
ID Number
2005.0233.0051
catalog number
2005.0233.0051
accession number
2005.0233
Credit Line
Gift of CIGNA Museum and Art Collection
subject
Fire Fighting
Fraternal Associations
Hands
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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