Fire Badge "B.F.D. 498"

This metal fireman’s badge belonged to a member of the Brooklyn Fire Department sometime between 1869, when the paid department replaced the volunteers, and 1898, when the B.F.D. was consolidated into the New York Fire Department. The badge has a rounded cross or cloverleaf design with the initials “B.F.D.” on the left, upper, and right arms, and the number “498” on the bottom arm. The circular center of the cross bears Brooklyn’s seal. The seal features a woman holding a fasces (an axe in a bundle of sticks), a symbol from Roman times suggesting strength through unity. The seal is inscribed with Brooklyn’s motto, “Eendracht maakt macht,” which is Dutch for “unity makes strength.”
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 York, Brooklyn
Physical Description
metal (overall material)
overall: 2 1/2 in x 2 1/2 in; 6.35 cm x 6.35 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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