Fire Helmet, "Washington Hose Company No. 1"

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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 black leather fire dates to the late 19th century. The helmet has eight combs, with decorative triangles in between the segments and ivy-vine scrollwork around the hat’s brim. The metal eagle’s head frontpiece holder is mounted onto the crown of the helmet, with a thin metal frontpiece that reads “WASHINGTON/1/HOSE.” The frontpiece has a stamped rope border, and the center number “1” is surrounded by a hose.
Currently not on view
date made
20th century
place made
United States
Physical Description
leather (overall material)
overall: 9 1/4 in x 8 in x 10 1/8 in; 23.495 cm x 20.32 cm x 25.7175 cm
ID Number
accession number
catalog 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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