Helmet Frontpiece, "Hope Steam Fire Co. 17"

Description (Brief):

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.

Description (Brief)

This white leather frontpiece was worn by a member of the Hope Steam Fire Company No. 17, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Organized in 1796 as the Hope Fire Engine Company, a hand engine company, it acquired a steam engine in 1860 and changed its name to the Hope Steam Fire Engine Company No. 17. The company was active until 1871 when Philadelphia’s paid firefighting department was established. The frontpiece has three red banners with raised white leather letters that originally read “HOPE / STEAM FIRE Co. / JHL,” but some of the letters are now missing. A large black number “17” is in the center of the frontpiece. The letters “JHL” likely referred to the owner’s initials.

Maker: unknown

Location: Currently not on view

Associated Place: United States: New York, Queens, Long Island City

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


Exhibition Location:

Credit Line: Gift of CIGNA Museum and Art Collection

Data Source: National Museum of American History

Id Number: 2005.0233.1452Accession Number: 2005.0233Catalog Number: 2005.0233.1452

Object Name: frontpiece, helmet

Physical Description: leather (overall material)Measurements: overall: 8 in x 4 in; 20.32 cm x 10.16 cm

Guid: http://n2t.net/ark:/65665/ng49ca746ad-2df9-704b-e053-15f76fa0b4fa

Record Id: nmah_1394837

Our collection database is a work in progress. We may update this record based on further research and review. Learn more about our approach to sharing our collection online.

If you would like to know how you can use content on this page, see the Smithsonian's Terms of Use. If you need to request an image for publication or other use, please visit Rights and Reproductions.