Taylor Hose Company Fire Hat

Taylor 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 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania during the first half of the 19th century. The hat is painted black overall, with a circular portrait at the front of General Zachary Taylor, a hero of the Mexican-American War and later the twelfth President of the United States. The portrait is framed by a red banner with gold trim that reads “TAYLOR/HOSE Co.” in gold paint. The back of the hat has the company’s initials “T.H” painted in gold. The crown of the hat has the painted image of an eight-pointed star with a bell in the center. This design depicts the bell code for fires in Philadelphia. A central bell was rung in different sequences to indicate the direction of the fire—one ring for north, two for south, three for east, four for west, etc. The General Taylor Hose Company No. 35 of Philadelphia, also known as Taylor Hose Company, was founded on May 1, 1847, the year before Taylor was elected in 1848. In 1864 the name was changed to the General Taylor Steam Forcing Hose Company and operated until 1871 when Philadelphia’s paid firefighting department was established.
Currently not on view
Object Name
hat, fire
date made
Taylor Hose Company
Taylor, Zachary
place made
United States
Physical Description
painted (overall material)
fabric, pressed felt (overall material)
overall: 5 3/4 in x 12 in x 13 1/2 in; 14.605 cm x 30.48 cm x 34.29 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