Helmet Frontpiece, “Philadelphia Fire Dept. Ladder Co, 14”

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 Cairns & Brother of New York, New York during the late 18th to early 19th century. The red leather frontpiece has two recessed banners at the top and bottom. The banner at the top reads “LADDER” in white paint, with the number “8” in white paint at the bottom. The number “14” is stitched into the center of the piece in raised white leather numbers.
Currently not on view
date made
Cairns & Brother
place made
United States
Physical Description
leather (overall material)
overall: 6 in x 4 1/4 in; 15.24 cm x 10.795 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


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