Diligent Hose Company Fire Hat

Diligent Hose Company Fire Hat

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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 fire hat belonged to a member of the Diligent Hose Company No. 13 of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Founded in 1820, the hose company operated until 1871 when Philadelphia’s paid firefighting department was established. The Diligent Hose Company chose a beehive as their primary icon. It has been a symbol of industry, hard work, and cooperation used by many different groups. The beehive, along with their name of Diligent, implies that the members persistently worked together to serve the community in their role as firemen. Although the beehive and five-pointed star are also Masonic symbols, that does not necessarily link company members to the society. Many Masonic emblems were well known and used by other organizations in the Early Republic.
Object Name
hat, fire
Date made
Place Made
United States
Physical Description
maroon (overall color)
green (underbrim color)
gold (decoration; trim color)
red (lettering color)
painted (overall production method/technique)
pressed felt (overall material)
paint (overall material)
overall: 6 in x 11 3/4 in x 13 1/8 in; 15.24 cm x 29.845 cm x 33.3375 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
Artifact Walls exhibit
Clothing & Accessories
Family & Social Life
Data Source
National Museum of American History
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