Helmet Frontpiece, “1st Assistant Engineer PFD JHMcI”

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 by the William H. Wilson Manufacturing Company located at 135 Bowery Street, New York, New York around 1875. The white leather frontpiece has two recessed red banners with tan leather lettering that reads “1st ASSISTANT/ENGINEER.” Below, two recessed cartouches with scalloped edges and black backgrounds have white leather letters that read “PFD/JHMcI” inside.
Currently not on view
Object Name
frontpiece, helmet
date made
ca 1875
Wilson, William H.
Physical Description
leather (overall material)
overall: 8 in x 4 1/2 in; 20.32 cm x 11.43 cm
place made
United States
ID Number
accession number
catalog number
See more items in
Home and Community Life: Fire Fighting and Law Enforcement
Clothing & Accessories
Firefighting Collection
Helmet Frontpieces
Data Source
National Museum of American History, Kenneth E. Behring Center


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