Fire Badge "Columbia F.D."

Description
This metal fire badge is in the shape of the Maltese cross, a popular symbol for firefighters. The upper arm has a banner that reads "COLUMBIA" and the lower arm reads "F.D." A hydrant with hose is on the left arm and a crossed hook, ladder, and torch are behind a fire helmet on the right arm. The center of the badge features a ladder truck with the initials "W.H." above and the number “1” below. Columbia was a popular name for fire companies, but the initials “W.H” and the imagery of the hook and ladder truck suggests that this badge belonged to a member of the Columbia Hook and Ladder Company No. 1 of the West Hoboken Fire Department in West Hoboken, New Jersey. Columbia Hook & Ladder Co. 1 was organized in 1878, and since West Hoboken was absorbed into Union City in 1925, the badge would date between those years.
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.
Location
Currently not on view
Object Name
badge, fireman's
date made
late 19th century
maker
unknown
Physical Description
metal (overall material)
Measurements
overall: 2 1/4 in; 5.715 cm
place made
United States
ID Number
2005.0233.1316
accession number
2005.0233
catalog number
2005.0233.1316
subject
Work
Firefighting Collection
Fire Badges
See more items in
Home and Community Life: Fire Fighting and Law Enforcement
Fire Badges
Firefighting Collection
Data Source
National Museum of American History, Kenneth E. Behring Center
Credit Line
Gift of CIGNA Museum and Art Collection

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