Fire Helmet, "Trenton Hose Co. 1 EW"

Description
The traditional American leather firefighter’s helmet with its distinctive long rear brim, front shield, 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 front shield 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.
Though most work hats from 1836 on were shaped in the familiar Gratacap style with a prominent rear brim, some companies like Trenton wore hats that deviated from this standard. This leather fire helmet was made by Cairns & Brother of New York, New York around 1840. Reminiscent of British “bobby” or pith helmets this helmet has a rounded “bowl” shape. The helmet is painted white overall, with eight combs painted gold and a black diamond pattern painted in between the combs. It has a metal eagle shield holder, and a leather shield that reads "Trenton 1 Hose Co./THC/EW.” The interlocking “THC” initials in the center of the shield stand for the “Trenton Hose Company.”
Location
Currently not on view
Object Name
helmet, fire
date made
1840
maker
Cairns & Brother
Physical Description
leather (overall material)
Measurements
overall: 10 in x 11 1/8 in x 7 1/4 in; 25.4 cm x 28.2575 cm x 18.415 cm
place made
United States: New York, New York
ID Number
2005.0233.0193
catalog number
2005.0233.0193
accession number
2005.0233
subject
Work
Clothing & Accessories
Firefighting Collection
Fire Helmets
See more items in
Home and Community Life: Fire Fighting and Law Enforcement
Fire Helmets
Firefighting Collection
Data Source
National Museum of American History, Kenneth E. Behring Center
Credit Line
Gift of CIGNA Museum and Art Collection
Additional Media

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