Helmet Frontpiece, “McLean Engine 3”

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 frontpiece was made during the early 20th century. At the top of the red leather frontpiece are two dark brown banners with white leather lettering that reads “McLEAN/ENGINE.” A large white leather “3” is in the center of the piece, below it is a recessed cartouche with a dark brown background. White leather initials “HPS” originally were in the cartouche, but the “H” is missing a stem, and the “P” is completely absent.
Currently not on view
Object Name
frontpiece, helmet
date made
early 20th century
Physical Description
leather (overall material)
overall: 8 in x 4 1/4 in; 20.32 cm x 10.795 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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