Helmet Frontpiece, "Excelsior"

Description (Brief)
The frontpiece (also known as shield or badge) of firefighting helmets has been a distinctive part of the American firefighter’s helmet since it was developed by Henry Gratacap in the early 19th century. These frontpieces displayed a variety of information. The fire company's name and number appeared, often alongside the city or town where it was based. The frontpiece could also include the owner's initials and rank. Most fire helmets had leather frontpieces, but frontpieces could also be made of metal, especially on presentation helmets or those worn in parades.
This leather frontpiece was made around 1865. The frontpiece is painted black with a thin red line around the border. The rest of the frontpiece is painted with a red banner that reads “EXCELSIOR” in gold. Beneath that is a white bucket with a black number “1” in the center. At the bottom of the frontpiece is a blue banner with the initials “J.W.M.” painted in white.
Currently not on view
Object Name
frontpiece, helmet
date made
ca 1865
Physical Description
leather (overall material)
overall: 6 in x 5 in; 15.24 cm x 12.7 cm
place made
United States
ID Number
accession number
catalog number
See more items in
Home and Community Life: Fire Fighting and Law Enforcement
Clothing & Accessories
Firefighting Collection
Helmet Frontpieces
Data Source
National Museum of American History, Kenneth E. Behring Center


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