America Hose Company Cape

Description
Some early American firefighters wore capes for protection, ornamentation, and identification. The stiff oil cloth protected their shoulders and upper body against fiery embers and water, and the decorative painting served to identify company members at chaotic fire scenes or on parade. The capes were often painted by local sign painters, some skilled artists like John A. Woodside, who also painted the company’s hats and banners and decorated their fire engines. Many of the capes in the firefighting collection display patriotic names and symbolism, reflecting themes important to 19th century volunteers, as well as the pride they felt in the early founding date of their fire company.
This oil cloth cape is painted maroon with gold trim. The center of the cape has gold letters that read “America Hose” with a golden “A” (for America) on each shoulder. America was a common name among fire companies, making it difficult to determine which company this cape, painted burgundy with yellow lettering, belonged. Companies often chose monikers such as America, Eagle, Columbia, Washington, and United States to link their company with patriotic values of a still young republic. Hose companies began to form the first decades of the 19th century, with the creation of municipal water systems and developments in hose design that made the equipment more functional and essential in fighting fires in larger cities. Hose companies were responsible for maintaining the leather hoses, transporting and working them at fires. The hose allowed firemen to quickly bring water to a blaze from a distance, as well as the ability to put more water directly on the conflagration.
Location
Currently not on view
date made
ca 1840-1850
maker
unknown
place made
United States
Physical Description
oil cloth (overall material)
paint (overall material)
Measurements
overall: 25 in x 43 1/2 in; 63.5 cm x 110.49 cm
ID Number
2005.0233.0120
catalog number
2005.0233.0120
accession number
2005.0233
Credit Line
Gift of CIGNA Museum and Art Collection
subject
Fire Fighting
Fraternal Associations
See more items in
Home and Community Life: Fire Fighting and Law Enforcement
Work
Cultures & Communities
Clothing & Accessories
Art
Firefighting Capes
Firefighting Collection
Data Source
National Museum of American History, Kenneth E. Behring Center

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