Helmet Frontpiece, "Northern Liberty Hose & Steam"

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 by the William H. Wilson Manufacturing Company located at 135 Bowery Street, New York, New York sometime between 1860 and 1870. The leather frontpiece is painted black, with gold stitching around the rim. A painted red banner at the top of the frontpiece reads “NORTHERN LIBERTY” and the bottom painted red banner reads “HOSE & STEAM” in gold text. The frontpiece has a large stitched blue number “4” in the center and a lower cartouche originally had the leather initials “TRJ” inside, but the “RJ” is now missing.
Location
Currently not on view
Object Name
frontpiece, helmet
date made
before 1871
maker
Wilson, William H.
Physical Description
leather (overall material)
Measurements
overall: 8 in x 6 in; 20.32 cm x 15.24 cm
place made
United States
ID Number
2005.0233.1438
accession number
2005.0233
catalog number
2005.0233.1438
subject
Firefighting Collection
Helmet Frontpieces
Clothing & Accessories
Work
See more items in
Home and Community Life: Fire Fighting and Law Enforcement
Firefighting Collection
Helmet Frontpieces
Data Source
National Museum of American History, Kenneth E. Behring Center
Credit Line
Gift of CIGNA Museum and Art Collection

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