Fire Badge "Elizabeth Exempt"

This shield-shaped metal fire badge belonged to an exempt member of the fire department from Elizabeth, New Jersey. The badge is decorated with a central image of a fire helmet, with a lantern, trumpet, and axe arrayed behind it. At the top of the badge is a circular plaque with number “214” inside it. An upper banner reads “ELIZABETH” with the initials “F.D.” below. The lower banner reads “EXEMPT.” Exempt firemen were firemen who had served a set number of years in the volunteer department and were now excluded from jury duty or militia service. Later, exempt firemen created their own social associations to foster camaraderie and “continue the fraternal associations” established as volunteer firemen.
Metal firefighter’s badges were a part of the firefighter’s uniform since volunteer companies began to proliferate in the early 19th century. As volunteer companies gave way to municipal fire departments during the mid–19th century, these badges became mandated by uniform codes. Badges served as official identification at fire scenes, as access to derelict buildings by unscrupulous citizens could result in looting. Fire badges came in a variety of shapes, most notably circular, shield–shaped, or the Maltese cross. While shield–shaped badges were often worn on the chest, circular and cross-shaped badges can be seen on jacket lapels or soft caps. Badges usually detailed the company’s name, number and department, and were often decorated with various symbols of the profession such as hose carriages, hand–pumped engines, hoses, trumpets, helmets, hooks, and ladders. For paid municipal companies, many badges also featured the badge number of the wearer.
Currently not on view
date made
late 19th century
place made
United States
associated place
United States: New Jersey, Elizabeth
Physical Description
metal (overall material)
overall: 1 1/2 in x 1 7/8 in; 3.81 cm x 4.7625 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
Fire Badges
Firefighting Collection
Data Source
National Museum of American History


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