Fire Helmet, "U.F.I."

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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 made by Anderson & Jones of New York, New York in the 19th century. The helmet has four prominent combs and an ivy-vine scrolling pattern is stamped into the brim of the helmet. A metal eagle’s head is mounted onto the top of the helmet to serve as a frontpiece holder. The rear brim bears the initials “U.F.I.” in painted gold letters with red shading. The initials “UFI” likely refers to United Fireman’s Insurance. United Fireman’s Insurance acted as a mutual aid society that was composed of several fire companies who collected dues and managed a fund to aid wounded and disabled fire fighters.
Currently not on view
date made
19th century
Anderson & Jones
place made
United States
Physical Description
leather (overall material)
overall: 8 1/4 in x 14 in; 20.955 cm x 35.56 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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