Fire Helmet, "Moyamensing 1"

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 helmet was made by Cairns & Brother of New York, New York in 1837, and has been paired with a leather frontpiece manufactured by John M. Migeod & Son. The helmet has a metal ring on its rear brim as well as a metal reinforcement band inside its crown. The frontpiece from “Moyamensing 1” bears a crossed hook and ladder and may belong to Chester, Pennsylvania’s Moyamensing Hook and Ladder Company No. 1, instituted in April of 1868 and incorporated in February of 1870. The word “JOKER” is painted at the bottom of the frontpiece.
Currently not on view
Object Name
helmet, fire
date made
mid 19th century
Migeod Company
Cairns & Brother
Physical Description
leather (overall material)
overall: 9 in x 14 in; 22.86 cm x 35.56 cm
place made
United States: New York, New York
ID Number
accession number
catalog number
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, Kenneth E. Behring Center


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