Fire Helmet, "Globe Fire Company"

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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 second half of the 19th century. The helmet is painted black overall, its eight combs are painted gold, and a metal eagle frontpiece holder is mounted on the crown. There is a pressed ivy-vine design around the rim, and the date “1812” is painted in gold on the rear brim. The gold frontpiece reads “GLOBE/FIRE/30/COMPANY/RFR” in raised letters. “Presented to Wm. M. Kidd” is written on the hat’s inner band. It is likely that the helmet and frontpiece were not originally produced together.
Currently not on view
date made
19th century
Cairns & Brother
place made
United States: New York
Physical Description
leather (overall material)
brass (part: shield holder material)
metal (part: wire brim material)
overall: 14 in x 10 3/4 in x 8 3/4 in; 35.56 cm x 27.305 cm x 22.225 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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