Western 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 red overall, and the two black banners have the gold text “WESTERN/COMPANY” surrounded by a fancy script that reads “HOSE.” The back of the hat has the date “1836” in gold script with a golden sunburst above and below the date. The owner’s initials “M.W.” are painted in a gold script on the crown of the hat. This Western Hose Company was established on February 11th, 1836 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, located on the south side of Filbert Street west of 10th street.
Currently not on view
date made
ca 1836
Western Hose Company
place made
United States
Physical Description
fabric, pressed felt (overall material)
paint (overall material)
paint (overall production method/technique)
overall: 5 1/4 in x 12 in x 13 1/2 in; 13.335 cm x 30.48 cm x 34.29 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, Kenneth E. Behring Center


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