Northern Liberty Fire Company Fire Hat

Northern Liberty Fire 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 hat dates to the first half of the 19th century. The hat is painted black overall, with the text “NORTHERN/No. 1/LIBERTY” painted in gold on the front of the hat. The crown of the hat bears the date “1756” in gold paint. The back of the hat features a faded image of fire hydrant in gold flanked by the initials “FA". This was the logo of the Fire Association of Philadelphia, an insurance company founded by a group of eleven volunteer engine companies and five volunteer hose companies in 1817. The Northern Liberty Fire Company was founded on May 1st 1756, in the Northern Liberties area of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, a separate municipality until 1854.
Currently not on view
Object Name
hat, fire
date made
Northern Liberty No. 1
place made
United States
Physical Description
fabric, pressed felt (overall material)
painted (overall production method/technique)
paint (overall material)
overall: 6 1/2 in x 11 in x 13 in; 16.51 cm x 27.94 cm x 33.02 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
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