Schuylkill Hose 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 dates to the first half of the 19th century. The hat is painted blue overall, and the front of the hat has two red banners above and below a yellow circle with the text painted in gold on them that reads “SCHUYLKILL/HOSE/COMPANY” (capitalize this). The back of the hat has the number “24” painted in gold framed in a cartouche. The crown of the hat has the company’s initials “S.H.C.” painted in gold. The Schuylkill Hose Company was in operation in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania before 1820.
Currently not on view
date made
Schuylkill Hose Company
place made
United States
Physical Description
painted (overall production method/technique)
paint (overall material)
fabric, pressed felt (overall material)
overall: 5 3/4 in x 11 3/4 in x 13 in; 14.605 cm x 29.845 cm x 33.02 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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