United States Hose Company Fire Hat

United States 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 was used by a member of the United States Hose Company of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania organized 1826 and operated until 1871 when Philadelphia’s paid firefighting department was established. The hat is painted black overall with an image of Lady Liberty holding a liberty pole with Phrygian cap on top and her arm over a United States shield that reads “Liberty.” The image is framed in an oval cartouche bordered in gold. There is a gold trimmed banner on either side of the central image that reads “UNITED STATES” in gold. The back of the hat has a gold image of a fire hydrant with protruding hose, and the text “HOSE / US” arching above in gold. The crown of the fire hat has the owner’s initials “T.J.” painted in gold.
Currently not on view
Object Name
hat, fire
date made
place made
United States
Physical Description
painted (overall production method/technique)
paint (overall material)
fabric, pressed felt (overall material)
overall: 14.224 cm x 32.385 cm x 34.29 cm; 5 5/8 in x 12 3/4 in x 13 1/2 in
ID Number
catalog number
accession number
Credit Line
Gift of CIGNA Museum and Art Collection
Fire Fighting
Fraternal Associations
See more items in
Home 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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This fire hat is beautiful. I would love to know exactly what was going through the person's mind that chose the image of Lady Liberty used on the hat. I bet this person was very patriotic! It warms my heart to see the pride in our country displayed this way.

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