Marion Hose Company Fire Hat

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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 hat dates to the first half of the 19th century. The hat is painted brown overall, with an image of a spread-winged bald eagle similar to the one depicted on the Great Seal of the United States. In the bird's right claw is an olive branch and in its left are a group of thirteen arrows, and the shield of the United States is on its chest. A red banner above the eagle reads “MARION.” The back of the hat has the date “1833” painted in gold. The crown of the hat has the owner’s initials “J.H.H.” painted in gold. The Marion Hose Company was founded in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania on August 19, 1833.
Location
Currently not on view
date made
1833-1860
associated
Marion Hose Company
maker
unknown
place made
United States
Physical Description
fabric, pressed felt (overall material)
painted (overall production method/technique)
paint (overall material)
Measurements
overall: 5 3/4 in x 12 in x 13 3/4 in; 14.605 cm x 30.48 cm x 34.925 cm
ID Number
2005.0233.0069
catalog number
2005.0233.0069
accession number
2005.0233
Credit Line
Gift of CIGNA Museum and Art Collection
subject
Eagles
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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