Hibernia 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 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. An encircled number one painted in gold is located on the crown of the hat. The Hibernia Fire Company was founded in 1752 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and served until 1870.
Object Name
hat, fire
date made
Physical Description
painted (overall production method/technique)
fabric, pressed felt (overall material)
paint (overall material)
overall: 13 3/4 in x 12 3/8 in; 34.925 cm x 31.4325 cm
place made
United States
ID Number
catalog number
accession number
Fire Fighting
Cultures & Communities
Fraternal Associations
Clothing & Accessories
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
McCosker, M.J.. The Historical Collection of the Insurance Company of North America
Additional Media

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