Helmet Frontpiece, "Singers Sewing Machine"

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 brown leather frontpiece has four banners that alternate red and blue backgrounds. The top red banner is missing all of its letters except for the last “N.” The next blue banner originally read “SINGERS” in white leather letters, but the first two letters are now missing. The next red banner reads “SEWING” in raised white leather letters. The bottom blue banner has raised white leather letters that reads “MACHINE.” Three white leather stars are stitched into the frontpiece, which also has decorative stitching throughout. Unlike most frontpieces that served to identify firefighters and their companies, this may have been used as an advertising piece. It may also originate with a fire company in Elizabeth, New Jersey, where the first major Singer factory was located.
Currently not on view
Object Name
frontpiece, helmet
Physical Description
leather (overall material)
overall: 8 1/2 in x 4 1/4 in; 21.59 cm x 10.795 cm
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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