Fire Helmet, "Citizen 3"

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 helmet dates to the 19th century. The hat has eight combs and is painted black overall. A metal eagle’s head mounted to the crown of the helmet serves as a frontpiece holder. The black leather frontpiece reads “CITIZEN/3”. An ivy-vine scroll pattern is stamped around the brim of the helmet, with the initials “U.F.I.” painted in gold with red shading on the rear brim. The United Firemen’s Insurance Company was organized by thirty-two fire and hose brigades in Philadelphia in 1860.
Currently not on view
Object Name
helmet, fire
date made
Physical Description
leather (overall material)
overall: 13 1/2 in x 11 1/4 in; 34.29 cm x 28.575 cm
ID Number
accession number
catalog number
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, Kenneth E. Behring Center


Add a comment about this object