Fire Helmet, "Hope Fire 1 EAH"

<< >>
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 William H. Wilson of New York, New York in the mid-to-late 19th century. The helmet is painted black and its eight combs are painted gold. The date “1850” is painted in gold on the rear brim, and a metal eagle frontpiece holder is mounted on the crown. The frontpiece is gold overall with a large gold number “1” in the center of a red background. An upper red banner reads “HOPE FIRE Co.” with a lower black banner bearing the initials “EAH” in gold. Hope was a common name among 19th century fire companies, so the exact company that used this hat is unknown, but the date of 1850 is the founding date of the Hope Hose Company of Burlington, New Jersey.
Currently not on view
date made
ca 1850
Wilson, William H.
Physical Description
leather (overall material)
black (overall color)
overall: 8 5/8 in x 10 5/8 in x 14 3/4 in; 21.9075 cm x 26.9875 cm x 37.465 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


Add a comment about this object