Helmet Frontpiece, “Vigilant 6 Steam Fire Co.”

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 leather frontpiece was made in the United States around 1875. There is a large shield-shaped recess in the center of the frontpiece with a large white number “6” inside. One banner at the top of the frontpiece and two at the bottom contain white leather lettering that reads “VIGILANT/STEAM/FIRE Co.”
Currently not on view
Object Name
frontpiece, helmet
date made
ca 1875
Physical Description
leather (overall material)
overall: 8 in x 5 in; 20.32 cm x 12.7 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

Visitor Comments

11/5/2015 6:03:31 PM
Jim Eifler
This helmet shield is from Vigilant Engine Company #6 from Paterson N.J.. Vigilant #6 was founded organized January 1, 1867, they were given the hand operated engine previously used by Eng. Co. #1. The Paterson N.J. Volunteer F.D. started operations on July 4, 1815 and is now a paid F.D. with 13 companies.
Add a comment about this object

**Please read before submitting the form**

Have a comment or question about this object to share with the community? Please use the form below. Selected comments will appear on this page and may receive a museum response (but we can't promise). Please note that we generally cannot answer questions about the history, rarity, or value of your personal artifacts.

Have a question about anything else, or would you prefer a personal response? Please visit our FAQ or contact page.

Personal information will not be shared or result in unsolicited e-mail. See our privacy policy.

Enter the characters shown in the image.