Helmet Frontpiece, “Americus Hose 48”

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 white leather frontpiece was made in the 19th century. The top of the frontpiece has a painted image of Lady Liberty holding an American shield and flag. A red banner at the top has white leather lettering that reads “AMERICUS/HOSE.” A large black number “48” is in the center of the frontpiece. Below, a back banner has raised white leather letters that reads “N.Y./TO”, below that is two red banners that read “FAIRMOUNT/ENGINE.” This frontpiece was presented by the Americus Hose Company No. 48 of New York, New York to the Fairmount Engine Company of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Elaborate frontpieces would be exchanged between companies as mementos of their meeting.
Currently not on view
Object Name
frontpiece, helmet
date made
19th century
Physical Description
leather (overall material)
overall: 12 in x 7 1/4 in; 30.48 cm x 18.415 cm
place made
United States
ID Number
accession number
catalog number
Helmet Frontpieces
Firefighting Collection
Clothing & Accessories
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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