Monroe Fire Company Fire Hat

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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 red overall, with a large illustration of a rising golden sun on the front of the hat. There is a black banner on the front with large golden letters that read “MONROE.” The back of the hat has the date “1823” painted in gold on the back of the hat between two patterned lines. The Monroe Fire Company was established in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania on March 8th, 1823, and likely named after President James Monroe, who was in office at the time of its founding.
Currently not on view
date made
Monroe Fire Company
place made
United States
Physical Description
fabric, pressed felt (overall material)
painted (overall production method/technique)
paint (overall material)
overall: 6 1/4 in x 12 1/4 in x 13 3/4 in; 15.875 cm x 31.115 cm x 34.925 cm
ID Number
catalog number
accession number
Credit Line
Gift of CIGNA Museum and Art Collection
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


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