Fire Badge "Passaic Exempt Fire Department"

This shield-shaped metal fire badge belonged to an exempt member of the fire department of Passaic, New Jersey. Exempt firemen served five years or more in the volunteer company, granting them exemptions from certain other civic responsibilities. These “exempts” often created associations which mainly served as social clubs, although some exempt fire fighters continued to serve as fire departments if needed. This badge likely dates to the late 19th century. The top of the badge is decorated with a crossed trumpet and hose nozzle behind a fire helmet. The banners are inscribed with the text “PASSAIC/EXEMPT/FIRE DEPARTMENT.” A laurel wreath surrounds the word “EXEMPT.” This badge is very similar to object 2005.0233.1345, an exempt badge from Kingston.
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
Object Name
badge, fireman's
date made
late 19th century
Physical Description
metal (overall material)
overall: 1 3/4 in x 1 3/8 in; 4.445 cm x 3.4925 cm
place made
United States
associated place
United States: New Jersey, Passaic
ID Number
accession number
catalog number
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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