Hope 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 Harrisburg, Pennsylvania during the first half of the 19th century. The front of the hat bears an image of a spread-winged eagle grasping an anchor in its talons below a red banner that reads “HOPE FIRE COMP” in yellow. The back of the hat bears a large number “2.” The crown of the hat has an image of a beehive surrounded by the text “HIVERS/E.S.” The nickname “Hivers” likely reflected a common theme among volunteer fire companies – hard communal labor in support of the public good. The front of the hat displays the patriotic imagery of the bald eagle, as well as the anchor representing hope. The Hope Fire Company No. 2 operated in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania from 1814 until 1868.
Location
Currently not on view
Object Name
hat, fire
date made
1814-1868
associated
Hope Volunteer Fire Company
maker
unknown
Physical Description
painted (overall production method/technique)
fabric, pressed felt (overall material)
paint (overall material)
Measurements
overall: 5 1/4 in x 12 1/2 in x 14 in; 13.335 cm x 31.75 cm x 35.56 cm
place made
United States
ID Number
2005.0233.0060
catalog number
2005.0233.0060
accession number
2005.0233
subject
Beehives
Eagles
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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