Helmet Frontpiece, “Veteran Philadelphia”

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 dates to the late 19th century. Two brown banners are at the top and bottom of the piece. The banner has white leather lettering that reads “VETERAN/PHILADELPHIA.” A transfer painted image of a Philadelphia-style end stroke hand pumped fire engine is at the center of the frontpiece. This piece was likely used by a member of the Veteran Firemen’s Association of Philadelphia, an association created to maintain the camaraderie of the volunteer fire department after members had retired, or after the introduction of paid companies put an end to the volunteer system.
Currently not on view
Object Name
frontpiece, helmet
date made
Physical Description
leather (overall material)
overall: 8 in x 6 1/2 in; 20.32 cm x 16.51 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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