Helmet Frontpiece, “Volunteer Fireman of Stonington, CT to Passaic Fire Co. of Paterson NJ”

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 during the 19th century; possibly around 1868.The shield commemorates the meeting of an unknown No. 2 fire company from Stonington Connecticut with the Passaic No. 1 company from Paterson, New Jersey. The frontpiece is made of light tan leather overall. At the top is a banner with the black leather letters “ONE” with the letter “P” in black paint. The letters “NI” can be seen in red. No known company “PNOINE” company existed, and the missing letters makes identifying the company difficult. A large recessed number “2” is on the upper half of the frontpiece. A banner below has black leather letters that read “STONINGTON Ct”; below that is a recessed cartouche with the black leather letters “TO”; a banner below reads “PASSAIC” in black leather letters. A large recessed black number “1” has the black leather letters “PATERSON, NJ” in a banner below it.
Currently not on view
date made
19th century
place made
United States
Physical Description
leather (overall material)
overall: 13 1/4 in x 9 3/4 in; 33.655 cm x 24.765 cm
ID Number
accession number
catalog number
Credit Line
Gift of CIGNA Museum and Art Collection
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


This helmet shield previously read "UNDINE ". The Stonington Borough FD started with a bucket brigade in 1826 called the "Wadawanucks ". The second company was known as the "Undines ". There are written accounts of the Wadawanucks and Undines pumping their hand tubs in public contests. The Wadawanucks became the Neptune Engine Company in 1866 and the Undines be became the Stonington Steam Fire Engine Company or "Steamers ". Undine is a name for water nymphs.
"Hello, it is my contention the PNOINE seen at the top of the badgewere all raised leather letters spelling out ENGINE and that this shield was presented to the Paterson F.D. in 1865 for their 50th anniversary. The Stonington F.D. removed the E, N & I from the shield and painted in the large letter P, then they reworked or made the G into an O, this way the shield would now read "P ONE " in honor of Passaic Eng. #1 from Paterson It sure makes much more sense than PNOINE, people are free to disagree but that story certainly would make sense and fit the time frame for celebrating the 50th Anniversary on July 4th of 1865. The idea behind the badge saying PNOINE makes absolutely no sense at all as it clearly has no meaning. Regards, Jim Eifler(Amateur Paterson Historian)"

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