Fire Helmet, "Liberty 7 Daniel Gregory"

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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 leather fire helmet was manufactured by Cairns & Brother of New York, New York in the late 19th century. The 16 comb hat is painted black overall, with ivy vine scroll work stamped around the brim, and a two hoses flanking an inset metal frontpiece on the back of the brim. There is a metal frontpiece holder in the form of the fireman with a speaking trumpet to his mouth. The frontpiece is black leather with a red background and white lettering. The frontpiece reads “LIBERTY/7” in white leather and is signed “Daniel Gregory/Paterson, NJ” in the center. Gregory served as a member of several different Paterson Fire Companies, and was an officer in the Exempt Association of Paterson.
Currently not on view
date made
ca 1875
Cairns & Brother
place made
United States: New York, New York
United States: New Jersey
Physical Description
leather (overall material)
overall: 9 1/4 in x 15 1/4 in; 23.495 cm x 38.735 cm
ID Number
accession number
catalog number
Credit Line
Gift of CIGNA Museum and Art Collection
New Jersey
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


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