Fire Helmet, "Friendship"


The traditional American leather firefighter’s helmet with its distinctive long rear brim, frontpiece, and crest adornment was first developed around 1821-1836 in New York City. Henry T. Gratacap, a New York City luggage maker by trade, is often credited as the developer of this style of fire helmet. Gratacap created a specially treated leather helmet with a segmented “comb” design that led to unparalleled durability and strength. The elongated rear brim (also known as a duckbill or beavertail) and frontpiece were 19th century innovations that remain the most identifiable feature of firefighter’s helmets. The body of the helmet was primarily designed to deflect falling debris, the rear brim prevented water from running down firefighters’ backs, and their sturdy crowns could aid, if necessary, in breaking windows.

This leather fire helmet was made around 1820. The helmet has eight combs and is painted black on the outside with a red underbrim. Traces of a paper maker’s label can be found inside the hat’s crown with the word “CAPS FIRE SUPPLIERS” legible. The blue frontpiece has a white number “1” in the center, with a gold scalloped top that reads “FRIENDSHIP.”

Date Made: ca 1820

User: Fire AssociationMaker: unknown

Location: Currently not on view

Subject: Fire Fighting


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


Exhibition Location:

Credit Line: Gift of CIGNA Museum and Art collection

Data Source: National Museum of American History

Id Number: 2005.0233.0153Accession Number: 2005.0233Catalog Number: 2005.0233.0153

Object Name: helmet, fire

Physical Description: leather (overall material)black (overall color)Measurements: overall: 15 in x 13 1/4 in x 7 1/2 in; 38.1 cm x 33.655 cm x 19.05 cm


Record Id: nmah_1331109

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