Helmet Frontpiece, “Philadelphia Fire Dept. Engine Co. 26”

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 patent leather frontpiece was made by Cairns & Brother of New York, New York the mid-20th century. The frontpiece has a brown leather exterior with cutouts revealing a white interior. The frontpiece has stitching around its white recessed upper and lower banner, with stitching also around its edge. The upper banner reads “365” in black paint; the lower banner has the initials “PFD” in black paint. The center of the frontpiece has cut-outs to shape a recessed number “26” in white, surrounded by stitching.
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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