Fire Badge "Ithaca Fire Department"

This shield-shaped metal fire badge belonged to a member of the fire department of Ithaca, New York. A volunteer fire department had operated since 1823 when the town of Ithaca purchased a hand pumped fire engine. The paid municipal Ithaca Fire Department that would have used this badge was formed in 1906, so the badge would date from that time. The badge has a central decoration of a crossed speaking trumpet and hose nozzle behind a fire helmet. At the tope the badge reads “ITHACA” in raised letters while a lower banner reads “FIRE DEPARTMENT” in raised letters.
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, Ithaca
Physical Description
metal (overall material)
overall: 2 1/4 in x 1 1/2 in; 5.715 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


Add a comment about this object