Fire Badge "N.Y.F.D. 38"


This shield-shaped fire badge was made for a fireman in Engine Company No. 38 of the New York Fire Department between 1860 and 1865. The badge is made from white metal, with the raised company number “38” in the center made of Prince’s metal. At the top is the badge number “4” inscribed into a circular plaque. The badge has the initials “N.Y.F.D.” at the top and a raised image of a hand pumped fire engine at the bottom. This was the second type of badge issued by the New York Fire Department, after an 1855 ordinance by the Common Council authorized a badge to be issued to the city’s firemen. Exempt firemen received a badge in white metal with numbers cast in Prince’s medal. Firemen that had not previously served five years received badges made of Prince’s metal with white metal numbers. As a perk of their service, volunteer firemen who served a certain number of years were often “exempt” from various civic responsibilities such as jury duty, peace-time militia service, and certain taxes.

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.

Date Made: late 19th century

Maker: unknown

Location: Currently not on view

Place Made: United StatesAssociated Place: United States: New York, New York City

See more items in: Home and Community Life: Fire Fighting and Law Enforcement, Work, Firefighting Collection, Fire Badges


Exhibition Location:

Credit Line: Gift of CIGNA Museum and Art Collection

Data Source: National Museum of American History

Id Number: 2005.0233.1337Accession Number: 2005.0233Catalog Number: 2005.0233.1337

Object Name: badge, fireman's

Physical Description: metal (overall material)Measurements: overall: 2 in x 1 1/2 in; 5.08 cm x 3.81 cm


Record Id: nmah_1381213

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