The frontpiece (also known as shield or badge) of firefighting helmets has been a distinctive part of the American firefighter’s helmet since it was developed by Henry Gratacap in the early 19th century. These frontpieces displayed a variety of information. The fire company's name and number appeared, often alongside the city or town where it was based. The frontpiece could also include the owner's initials and rank. Most fire helmets had leather frontpieces, but frontpieces could also be made of metal, especially on presentation helmets or those worn in parades.
This leather frontpiece was made by Cairns & Brother of New York, New York around 1875. Two red banners are at the top of the frontpiece with raised gold leather lettering that reads “HYDRAULION/SFE Co.” A large black number “3” is in the center, with a black banner at the bottom with raised gold leather initials that reads “CW” with a first initial missing.
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