Western Company Cape

Western Company Cape

Usage conditions apply
Some early American firefighters wore capes for protection, ornamentation, and identification. The stiff oil cloth protected their shoulders and upper body against fiery embers and water, and the decorative painting served to identify company members at chaotic fire scenes or on parade. The capes were often painted by local sign painters, some skilled artists like John A. Woodside, who also painted the company’s hats and banners and decorated their fire engines. Many of the capes in the firefighting collection display patriotic names and symbolism, reflecting themes important to 19th century volunteers, as well as the pride they felt in the early founding date of their fire company.
This oil cloth cape is painted black with red trim. A red semi-circular scroll has gold trim with gold lettering that reads “WESTERN.” Just above are the owner’s initials “R.P.” in gold and framed by a sunburst. The number “26” is painted in gold on each shoulder. This cape belonged to a member of the Western Hose Company No. 26, which was organized in 1836. In 1863, they acquired a steam fire engine and served as a hose and steam fire engine company until 1867 when their services were dispensed with by the City Council. That year their firehouse and steam fire engine were purchased by the Fame Hose Company No. 12.
Currently not on view
Object Name
cape, fire uniform
date made
19th century
place made
United States
Physical Description
oil cloth (overall material)
paint (overall material)
overall: 25 1/2 in x 45 in; 64.77 cm x 114.3 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
Firefighting Capes
Firefighting Collection
Data Source
National Museum of American History
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