Helmet Frontpiece, “Philadelphia Fire Dept. Engine Co. 73”

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 black frontpiece has two recessed banners at the top and bottom. Stitching can be seen surrounding the banners and the edge. The upper recessed banner reads “ENGINE” in white paint; the lower recessed banner has the number “13” in white paint. The raised white leather number “73” is stitched in to the center of the frontpiece.
Currently not on view
Object Name
frontpiece, helmet
date made
Cairns & Brother
Physical Description
leather (overall material)
overall: 6 in x 4 1/4 in; 15.24 cm x 10.795 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


Add a comment about this object