This circular metal fire badge belonged to a member of the Rapid Hose Company 1 of the Kingston, New York fire department. The badge is encircled by a leaf design, with an upper banner bearing the inscription “RAPID HOSE 1” in black and a lower plaque reading “K.F.D.” in black. The center of the badge is decorated with an image of a fire helmet with a crossed trumpet and hose nozzle behind it. Below this is the image of a hose carriage. The Rapid Hose Company No. 1 of Kingston, New York was founded in 1860 and incorporated in 1877. The company has continued to operate into the 21st century.
Metal firefighter’s badges were a part of the firefighter’s uniform since volunteer companies began to proliferate in the early 19th century. As volunteer companies gave way to municipal fire departments during the mid–19th century, these badges became mandated by uniform codes. Badges served as official identification at fire scenes, as access to derelict buildings by unscrupulous citizens could result in looting. Fire badges came in a variety of shapes, most notably circular, shield–shaped, or the Maltese cross. While shield–shaped badges were often worn on the chest, circular and cross-shaped badges can be seen on jacket lapels or soft caps. Badges usually detailed the company’s name, number and department, and were often decorated with various symbols of the profession such as hose carriages, hand–pumped engines, hoses, trumpets, helmets, hooks, and ladders. For paid municipal companies, many badges also featured the badge number of the wearer.
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