Fire Badge "Paterson Fire Department 424"

This shield-shaped fire badge of white metal belonged to a member of the fire department of Paterson, New Jersey. The rim of the badge is made to resemble a riveted fire hose, with a fire helmet at the top of the badge. An upper banner bears the word “PATERSON” in raised text, with the lower banner reading “FIRE DEPARTMENT,” also in raised letters. The center of the badge has the raised metal number “424” in the center. The paid municipal Paterson Fire Department was established in 1890. This is not the first badge worn by the department—the original was shaped like a Maltese cross—so it likely dates to the early 20th century.
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
early 20th century
Physical Description
metal (overall material)
overall: 2 1/4 in x 2 1/8 in; 5.715 cm x 5.3975 cm
place made
United States
associated place
United States: New Jersey, Paterson
ID Number
accession number
catalog number
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


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