Fire Helmet, "Friendship 15 1796"

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Description
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 helmet was manufactured by Cairns & Brother of New York, New York around the early 20th century. The helmet has eight combs with an ivy vine scrollwork pattern stamped into the brim of the helmet. The metal eagle’s head mounted on the crown of the helmet serves as a frontpiece holder for the gold leather frontpiece that reads “FRIENDSHIP/15/1796.” The Friendship Fire Company of Northern Liberties, Philadelphia was founded August 18, 1796.
Location
Currently not on view
date made
ca 1900
maker
Cairns & Brother
place made
United States: New York, New York
Physical Description
leather (overall material)
Measurements
overall: 8 1/2 in x 14 in; 21.59 cm x 35.56 cm
ID Number
2005.0233.0226
accession number
2005.0233
catalog number
2005.0233.0226
Credit Line
Gift of CIGNA Museum and Art Collection
See more items in
Home and Community Life: Fire Fighting and Law Enforcement
Work
Clothing & Accessories
Fire Helmets
Firefighting Collection
Data Source
National Museum of American History, Kenneth E. Behring Center

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