Germantown Hose Company Fire Hat

Germantown Hose Company Fire 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 fire hat was used by a member of the Germantown Hose Company No. 37 of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, organized in 1848 and operated until 1871 when Philadelphia’s paid firefighting department was established. The fire hat has been painted red overall, and the front of the hat has the text “GERMANTOWN/HOSE” painted in gold around a golden number “1” on a black background surrounded by a golden sunburst. This represents the fact that it was the first hose company organized in the Germantown section of Philadelphia, a separate municipality before it was consolidated into the city in 1955. The date “1848” is painted in gold with black shadowing on the back of the hat.
Currently not on view
Object Name
hat, fire
date made
Germantown Hose Company
place made
United States
Physical Description
painted (overall production method/technique)
fabric, pressed felt (overall material)
brown (overall color)
gold (lettering; decoration color)
black (highlighting of lettering color)
paint (overall material)
overall: 5 in x 12 1/2 in x 14 in; 12.7 cm x 31.75 cm x 35.56 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