Western 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 middle of the 19th century. The hat is painted red overall, with the front of the hat bearing the text “WESTERN/1840” in gold. The back of the hat has the large initials “WEC” painted in gold. The owner’s initials “D.S.” are painted in gold on the crown of the hat. The Western Fire Company (later known as Western Engine Company) was founded on April 7th, 1840 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania on the corner of 8th Street and Callowhill Street.
Currently not on view
date made
place made
United States
Physical Description
fabric, pressed felt (overall material)
paint (overall material)
painted (overall production method/technique)
overall: 7 in x 14 in x 12 1/4 in; 17.78 cm x 35.56 cm x 31.115 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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