Fire Helmet, "Independent 1 Dunmore"

Fire Helmet, "Independent 1 Dunmore"

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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 fire helmet was made by Cairns & Brother of New York, New York in the late-19th century. This red helmet was a Cairns Ventilater model with four combs in a cross-thatched design and a metal eagle frontpiece holder mounted on the crown of the hat. The date “1885” is painted in white on the rear brim of the helmet. The leather frontpiece is painted white with a black cross in the center. The frontpiece reads “INDEPENDENT/1/DUNMORE.” The helmet likely belonged to the Independent Hose Company Number 1 of Dunmore, Pennsylvania founded in 1885.
Currently not on view
Object Name
helmet, fire
date made
ca 1885
Cairns & Brother
Cairns & Brother
place made
United States: New York, New York City
Physical Description
red (overall color)
leather (overall material)
brass (part: shield holder material)
overall: 9 in x 14 1/4 in x 10 3/4 in; 22.86 cm x 36.195 cm x 27.305 cm
ID Number
accession number
catalog number
Credit Line
Gift of CIGNA Museum and Art collection
Fire Fighting
See more items in
Cultural and Community Life: Fire Fighting and Law Enforcement
Clothing & Accessories
Fire Helmets
Firefighting Collection
Data Source
National Museum of American History
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