Fire Helmet, "Assistance 8 F.M.K."

Fire Helmet, "Assistance 8 F.M.K."

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Description
The traditional American leather firefighter’s helmet with its distinctive long rear brim, frontpiece, and crest adornment was first developed around 1821-1836 in New York City. Henry T. Gratacap, a New York City luggage maker by trade, is often credited as the developer of this style of fire helmet. Gratacap created a specially treated leather helmet with a segmented “comb” design that led to unparalleled durability and strength. The elongated rear brim (also known as a duckbill or beavertail) and frontpiece were 19th century innovations that remain the most identifiable feature of firefighter’s helmets. The body of the helmet was primarily designed to deflect falling debris, the rear brim prevented water from running down firefighters’ backs, and their sturdy crowns could aid, if necessary, in breaking windows.
This leather helmet was worn by a member of the Assistance Steam Fire Engine Company No.8 of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Founded in 1789 as a hand engine company, it acquired a steam fire engine in 1860. The Assistance Steam Fire Engine Company No.8 operated until 1871 when Philadelphia’s paid firefighting department was established. It was made by William H. Wilson of New York, New York in the mid-to-late 19th century. The frontpiece on this helmet was made by the Migeod Company. The black helmet has four combs painted gold and a metal eagle frontpiece holder mounted to the helmet’s crown. The frontpiece reads “Assistance / 8 / FMK.” The raised initials "F.M.K." likely identified the owner of the helmet.
Location
Currently not on view
Object Name
helmet, fire
date made
19th century
retailer
John M. Migoed & Son
manufacturer
Wilson, William H.
maker
Migeod Company
place made
World
Physical Description
leather (overall material)
Measurements
overall: 7 in x 15 1/4 in; 17.78 cm x 38.735 cm
ID Number
2005.0233.0139
accession number
2005.0233
catalog number
2005.0233.0139
Credit Line
Gift of CIGNA Museum and Art Collection
subject
Fire Fighting
See more items in
Cultural and Community Life: Fire Fighting and Law Enforcement
Work
Clothing & Accessories
Fire Helmets
Firefighting Collection
Data Source
National Museum of American History
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