Fire Badge "Kingston Exempt Association N.Y."

This shield-shaped metal fire badge belonged to a member of the Kingston Exempt Association of Kingston, New York. Exempt Associations were formed when exempt firemen, who had served five years or more in the volunteer company, created associations after the introduction of paid fire departments. The exempt associations served to foster camaraderie and “continue the fraternal associations” established as volunteer firemen. This badge likely dates to the late 19th or early 20th century, when most volunteer companies were replaced with paid fire departments. The top of the badge is decorated with a crossed trumpet and a hose nozzle behind a fire helmet. The banners are inscribed with the text “KINGSTON/EXEMPT/ASSOCIATION/N.Y.” filled in with black enamel. A laurel wreath surrounds the word “EXEMPT.”
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
late 19th century
place made
United States
associated place
United States: New York, Kingston
Physical Description
metal (overall material)
overall: 1 3/4 in x 2 1/2 in; 4.445 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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