Helmet Frontpiece, “Staff Boston"

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 during the 19th century. The frontpiece is made of white leather, with a red banner at the top with raised white leather letters that reads “STAFF.” The center of the frontpiece has an overlapped monogram that reads “VFA.” Below are two black banners with raised white leather lettering that reads “BOSTON/1833.” The “VFA” likely refers to the Veteran Firemen’s Association of Boston that was formed in 1833. While many Veteran Firemen’s Associations were formed to foster camaraderie and social connections, Boston’s Veteran Firemen’s Association was formed “to repair forthwith to all fires with their badge, and there exert themselves with all skill and power in aiding or assisting any part of the Department.”
Currently not on view
Object Name
frontpiece, helmet
date made
19th century
Physical Description
leather (overall material)
overall: 8 1/4 in x 5 in; 20.955 cm x 12.7 cm
place made
United States
ID Number
accession number
catalog number
Firefighting Collection
Helmet Frontpieces
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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