Howard 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 dates to the first half of the 19th century. The hat is painted brown overall, with the image of a rising sun and the word “HOWARD” painted in gold arching over the sunburst on the front of the hat. The back of the hat has the number “15” in large gold numbers with the motto “WE CONQUER TO SAVE” in gold arching above the number. A Howard Fire Company No. 15 operated in Baltimore, Maryland from 1830 until 1858 when the municipal department took over and the Number 1 Engine Company occupied the company’s fire house located on North Paca Street.
Currently not on view
Object Name
hat, fire
date made
Howard Fire Company
Physical Description
painted (overall production method/technique)
fabric, pressed felt (overall material)
paint (overall material)
overall: 5 in x 12 in x 13 in; 12.7 cm x 30.48 cm x 33.02 cm
place made
United States
ID Number
catalog number
accession number
Fire Fighting
Fraternal Associations
See more items in
Home and Community Life: Fire Fighting and Law Enforcement
Cultures & Communities
Clothing & Accessories
Fire Hats
Firefighting Collection
Data Source
National Museum of American History, Kenneth E. Behring Center


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