Diligent Fire Company Veteran Fireman's Fire Hat

Diligent Fire Company / Veteran Fireman's 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 early 19th century. The hat is painted yellow overall, and features a painted image of a Philadelphia-style hand-pumped fire engine with a sunburst in the background. Diligent’s pumper was built by Patrick Lyon in 1822 and was known as one of the most powerful pumpers in the United States. Over the pumper is a red banner where the text “DILIGENT” has been painted over by the word “VETERAN.” From the mid-19th century, former volunteer firefighters formed veterans associations and often redecorated uniforms, equipment and even fire engines to reflect their new status. The back of the hat has the letter “D” in gold, with the owner’s initials “A.J.B.” in gold on the crown of the hat. The Diligent Fire Company of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania was founded on July 4th, 1791 located on the south side of Market Street near Eighth.
Currently not on view
date made
place made
United States
Physical Description
painted (overall production method/technique)
paint (overall material)
fabric, pressed felt (overall material)
overall: 5 1/2 in x 14 3/4 in; 13.97 cm x 37.465 cm
ID Number
catalog number
accession number
Credit Line
Gift of CIGNA Museum and Art Collection
Fire Fighting
Pumpers, Hand
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