Fire Helmet, "Asst. Chief Louis Brandt”

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The traditional American leather firefighter’s helmet with its distinctive long rear brim, frontpiece, and crest adornment was first developed around 1821-1836 in New York City. Henry T. Gratacap, a New York City luggage maker by trade, is often credited as the developer of this style of fire helmet. Gratacap created a specially treated leather helmet with a segmented “comb” design that led to unparalleled durability and strength. The elongated rear brim (also known as a duckbill or beavertail) and frontpiece were 19th century innovations that remain the most identifiable feature of firefighter’s helmets. The body of the helmet was primarily designed to deflect falling debris, the rear brim prevented water from running down firefighters’ backs, and their sturdy crowns could aid, if necessary, in breaking windows.
This leather fire helmet was made by Cairns & Brother of New York, New York in the 1880’s. This helmet belonged to assistant engineer Louis Brandt of Paterson, New Jersey. The leather helmet is painted white and has sixty-four combs with a metal eagle frontpiece holder mounted on the crown. The rim of the helmet has an embossed scroll pattern. The back of the helmet has a stamped scrolled pattern with two embossed hexagonal hydrants with hoses, and a frontpiece-shaped metal plate that reads "Louis Brandt, Ass't Engineer."
Currently not on view
Cairns & Brother
Brandt, Louis
Cairns & Brother
place made
United States: New York, New York
Physical Description
leather (overall material)
overall: 9 in x 13 1/2 in x 10 1/2 in; 22.86 cm x 34.29 cm x 26.67 cm
ID Number
accession number
catalog number
Credit Line
Gift of CIGNA Museum and Art Collection
Fire Fighting
See more items in
Home and Community Life: Fire Fighting and Law Enforcement
Clothing & Accessories
Fire Helmets
Firefighting Collection
Data Source
National Museum of American History


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