Fairmount 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. Though soiled and discolored, the hat is painted red overall and bears a central image of William Rush’s “Nymph and Bittern” statue painted in an oval frame that is flanked by aqua-colored banners with the text “Fair Mount” painted in gold on the banner. Rush’s “Nymph and Bittern” statue was part of a fountain made to commemorate the completion of the Centre Square Water Works in the early 1820s, providing Philadelphia with public waters which was an aid to the city’s fire fighters. The crown of the fire hat bears the faded initials “P.S.” The Fairmount Fire Company was established in Philadelphia in February 22, 1823.
Location
Currently not on view
Object Name
hat, fire
date made
ca 1820s
maker
unknown
Physical Description
fabric, pressed felt (overall material)
paint (overall material)
painted (overall production method/technique)
Measurements
overall: 6 in x 12 1/2 in x 13 1/2 in; 15.24 cm x 31.75 cm x 34.29 cm
place made
United States
ID Number
2005.0233.0101
catalog number
2005.0233.0101
accession number
2005.0233
subject
Nymph and Bittern
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
Credit Line
Gift of CIGNA Museum and Art Collection
listed
McCosker, M.J.. The Historical Collection of the Insurance Company of North America
Additional Media

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