Fire Badge "Richmond Fire Department"

This shield-shaped metal fire badge belonged to a member of the fire department of Richmond, Virginia. The silver-plated badge has a stippled background with upper and lower banners that read “RICHMOND/FIRE DEPARTMENT.” The design at the middle of the badge is a representation of the early seal of Virginia that depicts the goddess Virtus victorious over Tyranny. Virtus, with spear and sword, is shown standing in triumph over the body of a tyrant—likely representing King George III—with scepter and crown fallen at his side. Virginia adopted this image as its official state seal in 1776, continues to use a variation on its state flag.
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.
date made
late 19th century
place made
United States
Physical Description
metal (overall material)
overall: 2 1/8 in x 1 7/8 in; 5.3975 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
Exhibition Location
National Museum of American History
Data Source
National Museum of American History


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