Delaware 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 blue, with the company name “Delaware” in gold with black shading and the date "1821" in gold with red shading. The company number "4" is at each end of the cape in gold with black shading. The cape was most likely from the Delaware Fire Company based in Trenton, New Jersey, founded in 1821. The cords on this cape are still intact and show how these rather heavy capes would be tied around the fireman’s neck.
Location
Currently not on view
Object Name
cape, fire uniform
date made
1840-1850
maker
unknown
Physical Description
oil cloth (overall material)
paint (overall material)
Measurements
overall: 20 in x 44 1/4 in; 50.8 cm x 112.395 cm
place made
United States
ID Number
2005.0233.0122
catalog number
2005.0233.0122
accession number
2005.0233
subject
Fire Fighting
See more items in
Home and Community Life: Fire Fighting and Law Enforcement
Cultures & Communities
Work
Clothing & Accessories
Firefighting Capes
Firefighting Collection
Data Source
National Museum of American History, Kenneth E. Behring Center

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