Fire Helmet, "Trenton Hose Co. 1 EW"

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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.”
Currently not on view
date made
Cairns & Brother
place made
United States: New York, New York
Physical Description
leather (overall material)
overall: 10 in x 11 1/8 in x 7 1/4 in; 25.4 cm x 28.2575 cm x 18.415 cm
ID Number
catalog number
accession number
Credit Line
Gift of CIGNA Museum and Art Collection
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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