Taylor Hose Company Fire Hat


Beginning in the late 18th century, some volunteer fire fighters began to wear hats painted with their company’s name to identify themselves at chaotic fire scenes. During the 19th century, these fire hats became more ornate, as portraits of historical figures, patriotic scenes, allegorical images, or company icons were painted alongside the company’s name, motto, or founding date. Made of pressed felt, these “stove-pipe” hats were primarily used in Philadelphia, but other nearby cities such as Baltimore and Washington adopted them as well. Fire hats were personal items with the owner’s initials often painted on the top of the hat. While these hats were worn at fires, they are more colloquially known as “parade hats.” Fire companies commonly marched in the many parades of the period and these ornate hats contributed to the visual culture of their day. These distinguishing features in a company’s regalia often proclaimed the members’ cultural and political identity as well as their position on contested topics such as work, religion and immigration.

This fire hat was used in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania during the first half of the 19th century. The hat is painted black overall, with a circular portrait at the front of General Zachary Taylor, a hero of the Mexican-American War and later the twelfth President of the United States. The portrait is framed by a red banner with gold trim that reads “TAYLOR/HOSE Co.” in gold paint. The back of the hat has the company’s initials “T.H” painted in gold. The crown of the hat has the painted image of an eight-pointed star with a bell in the center. This design depicts the bell code for fires in Philadelphia. A central bell was rung in different sequences to indicate the direction of the fire—one ring for north, two for south, three for east, four for west, etc. The General Taylor Hose Company No. 35 of Philadelphia, also known as Taylor Hose Company, was founded on May 1, 1847, the year before Taylor was elected in 1848. In 1864 the name was changed to the General Taylor Steam Forcing Hose Company and operated until 1871 when Philadelphia’s paid firefighting department was established.

Date Made: 1810-1860

Associated: Taylor Hose CompanyDepicted: Taylor, ZacharyMaker: unknown

Location: Currently not on view

Place Made: United States

Subject: Fire FightingFraternal Associations


See more items in: Home and Community Life: Fire Fighting and Law Enforcement, Cultures & Communities, Clothing & Accessories, Fire Hats, Work, Firefighting Collection, Art


Exhibition Location:

Related Publication: McCosker, M.J.. The Historical Collection of the Insurance Company of North America

Credit Line: Gift of CIGNA Museum and Art Collection

Data Source: National Museum of American History

Id Number: 2005.0233.0085Catalog Number: 2005.0233.0085Accession Number: 2005.0233

Object Name: hat, fire

Physical Description: painted (overall material)fabric, pressed felt (overall material)Measurements: overall: 5 3/4 in x 12 in x 13 1/2 in; 14.605 cm x 30.48 cm x 34.29 cm

Guid: http://n2t.net/ark:/65665/ng49ca746ab-fc1a-704b-e053-15f76fa0b4fa

Record Id: nmah_1318711

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