Columbia Parade Hat

Columbia Parade Hat

<< >>
Usage conditions apply
Beginning in the late 18th century, some volunteer fire fighters began to wear hats painted with their company’s name to identify themselves at chaotic fire scenes. During the 19th century, these fire hats became more ornate, as portraits of historical figures, patriotic scenes, allegorical images, or company icons were painted alongside the company’s name, motto, or founding date. Made of pressed felt, these “stove-pipe” hats were primarily used in Philadelphia, but other nearby cities such as Baltimore and Washington adopted them as well. Fire hats were personal items with the owner’s initials often painted on the top of the hat. While these hats were worn at fires, they are more colloquially known as “parade hats.” Fire companies commonly marched in the many parades of the period and these ornate hats contributed to the visual culture of their day. These distinguishing features in a company’s regalia often proclaimed the members’ cultural and political identity as well as their position on contested topics such as work, religion and immigration.
This hat was used in the eastern United States during the first half of the 19th century. The hat is painted dark brown overall, with an image of a spread-winged eagle grasping an anchor in its claws. A banner arches over the eagle’s head that reads “Columbia.” The company’s initials “CEC” (Columbia Engine Company) are painted in gold calligraphic script on the back of the hat. The crown of the hat features the owner’s initials “S.H.R.” painted in gold inside a gold shield. The bald eagle was adopted by the Continental Congress as the national symbol of the United States in 1782. As a patriotic symbol of liberty and freedom, the eagle was a frequently used icon among early American volunteer fire departments. The anchor in the eagle’s claw represents hope and safety.
Currently not on view
Object Name
hat, fire
date made
place made
United States
Physical Description
painted (overall production method/technique)
fabric, pressed felt (overall material)
multicolored (decoration (eagle) color)
eagle (decoration (eagle) motif)
brown (overall color)
green; black (underbrim color)
gold (lettering color)
yellow (decoration (banner) color)
paint (overall material)
overall: 6 1/4 in x 12 in x 13 3/8 in; 15.875 cm x 30.48 cm x 33.9725 cm
ID Number
catalog number
accession number
Credit Line
Gift of CIGNA Museum and Art Collection
Fire Fighting
Fraternal Associations
See more items in
Cultural and Community Life: Fire Fighting and Law Enforcement
Cultures & Communities
Clothing & Accessories
Fire Hats
Firefighting Collection
Data Source
National Museum of American History
Nominate this object for photography.   

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.


Add a comment about this object