Fire Helmet, "Washington / 4"


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 helmet was manufactured by Henry T. Gratacap of New York, New York in the mid 19th century. The helmet is painted red overall with its eight combs painted gold. A floral pattern is stamped into the brim of the hat, and the back brim has the date “1820” painted in black and gold. The back of the brim shows Gratacap’s maker’s stamp that reads “H.T. GRATACAP/143/Grand St. NY.” A metal eagle’s head serves as a frontpiece holder with a white leather frontpiece that reads “WASHINGTON/4/CPM.”

Date Made: ca 1828

Maker: Gratacap, Henry T.

Location: Currently not on view

Place Made: United States

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: 2005.0233.0198Accession Number: 2005.0233Catalog Number: 2005.0233.0198

Object Name: helmet, fire

Physical Description: leather (overall material)orange (overall color)Measurements: overall: 14 3/4 in x 12 in; 37.465 cm x 30.48 cm


Record Id: nmah_1334783

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