William Penn 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 dates to the first half of the 19th century. The hat is painted red overall, with a portrait of William Penn in a wooded setting, a body of water behind him, set inside a golden oval. The portrait is flanked by blue banners with gold text that reads “WILm PENN / HOSE COMP.” The back of the hat has an image of a wooden fire hydrant with protruding hose painted in gold, flanked by the letters “FA.” This was the logo of the Fire Association of Philadelphia, an insurance company founded by a group of eleven volunteer engine companies and five volunteer hose companies in 1817. The William Penn Hose Company was founded on February 3rd, 1830 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, adopting the name of the state’s proprietor.
Location
Currently not on view
Object Name
hat, fire
date made
1830s
associated
William Penn Hose Company
depicted
Penn, William
maker
unknown
Physical Description
fabric, pressed felt (overall material)
paint (overall material)
painted (overall production method/technique)
Measurements
overall: 6 in x 11 3/4 in x 13 3/4 in; 15.24 cm x 29.845 cm x 34.925 cm
place made
United States
ID Number
2005.0233.0098
catalog number
2005.0233.0098
accession number
2005.0233
subject
Fire Fighting
Fraternal Associations
See more items in
Home and Community Life: Fire Fighting and Law Enforcement
Work
Cultures & Communities
Clothing & Accessories
Art
Fire Hats
Firefighting Collection
Data Source
National Museum of American History, Kenneth E. Behring Center

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