Fire Badge "Newark Exempt"

This shield–shaped metal fire badge belonged to an exempt member of the Newark Fire Department with badge number 272. The badge has a stippled background, with raised upper and lower banners that read “NEWARK/EXEMPT” in black enamel. A fire hydrant (or “plug”) is at the bottom of the badge, while two curled hoses emanate from either side of the hydrant and frame the badge’s text. After serving for seven years, members of Newark’s volunteer fire department were exempt from five dollars of tax each year, exempt from jury duty, and exempt from serving in a militia during a time of peace. An association for these exempt firemen was established in Newark on December 17, 1857 for the purpose of aiding disabled members and their families and to render assistance in combating fires as directed by the civic authorities.
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
19th century
place made
United States
associated place
United States: New Jersey, Newark
Physical Description
metal (overall material)
overall: 2 in x 1 1/2 in; 5.08 cm x 3.81 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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