Fair Mount Company Cape

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 red with the company name “FAIR MOUNT” written in gold. The letters “F’” and “A” are painted on each shoulder. A gold-painted image of a fire hydrant with protruding hose is flanked by the initials “FA” in the center of the cape. 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. Fairmount Fire Company was a member. It was named for the Fairmount Water Works of Philadelphia, the first municipal water system in the US and a boon to volunteer firefighters.
Currently not on view
date made
mid 19th century
place made
United States
Physical Description
oil cloth (overall material)
paint (overall material)
overall: 26 in x 38 1/2 in; 66.04 cm x 97.79 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
Firefighting Capes
Firefighting Collection
Data Source
National Museum of American History