Howard 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 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.
Location
Currently not on view
Object Name
hat, fire
date made
1810-1860
associated
Howard Fire Company
maker
unknown
Physical Description
painted (overall production method/technique)
fabric, pressed felt (overall material)
paint (overall material)
Measurements
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
2005.0233.0064
catalog number
2005.0233.0064
accession number
2005.0233
subject
Sunburst
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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