Taylor Hose 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 was used in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania during the first half of the 19th century. The hat is painted black overall, with a circular portrait at the front of General Zachary Taylor, a hero of the Mexican-American War and later the twelfth President of the United States. The portrait is framed by a red banner with gold trim that reads “TAYLOR/HOSE Co.” in gold paint. The back of the hat has the company’s initials “T.H” painted in gold. The crown of the hat has the painted image of an eight-pointed star with a bell in the center. This design depicts the bell code for fires in Philadelphia. A central bell was rung in different sequences to indicate the direction of the fire—one ring for north, two for south, three for east, four for west, etc.
Location
Currently not on view
date made
1810-1860
associated
Taylor Hose Company
depicted
Taylor, Zachary
maker
unknown
place made
United States
Physical Description
painted (overall material)
fabric, pressed felt (overall material)
Measurements
overall: 5 3/4 in x 12 in x 13 1/2 in; 14.605 cm x 30.48 cm x 34.29 cm
ID Number
2005.0233.0085
catalog number
2005.0233.0085
accession number
2005.0233
Credit Line
Gift of CIGNA Museum and Art Collection
subject
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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