Hibernia 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. The hat is painted dark green overall, and the front bears a painted image of a spread-winged eagle, grasping an olive branch in one talon and three arrows in the other, with a golden harp hanging from a chain in its beak. There is a red banner on top of the image with the text “HIBERNIA” in gold. The image is reminiscent of the bald eagle on the seal of the United States, but the harp as a symbol of Ireland replaces the U.S. shield. The imagery points to the Hibernia Fire Company blending its Irish heritage with American patriotic ideals. The back of the hat has the date “1752” painted in gold. The Hibernia Fire Company was founded in 1752 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and served until 1870.
Location
Currently not on view
Object Name
hat, fire
date made
1810-1860
associated
Hibernia Hose Company
maker
unknown
Physical Description
painted (overall production method/technique)
fabric, pressed felt (overall material)
paint (overall material)
Measurements
overall: 5 1/2 in x 12 1/4 in x 13 1/2 in; 13.97 cm x 31.115 cm x 34.29 cm
place made
United States
ID Number
2005.0233.0062
catalog number
2005.0233.0062
accession number
2005.0233
subject
Eagles
Fire Fighting
Art
Cultures & Communities
Fraternal Associations
Clothing & Accessories
Work
Firefighting Collection
Fire Hats
See more items in
Home and Community Life: Fire Fighting and Law Enforcement
Fire Hats
Firefighting Collection
Data Source
National Museum of American History, Kenneth E. Behring Center
Credit Line
Gift of CIGNA Museum and Art Collection
listed
McCosker, M.J.. The Historical Collection of the Insurance Company of North America
Additional Media

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