Fire Helmet, "Foreman Excelsior"
Fire Helmet, "Foreman / Excelsior"
- 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 in use during the early 19th century. The hat has an unusually rounded crown, with a metal band where the crown meets the brim, a metal strip across the crown from the sides of the hat, and a metal strip from the back to the upper middle of the crown. These supportive metal segments are riveted to the hat. The hat has a leather frontpiece that reads “FOREMAN/EXCELSIOR” in gold paint that is now obscured with age.
- Currently not on view
- Object Name
- helmet, fire
- date made
- early 19th century
- Physical Description
- leather (overall material)
- overall: 5 in x 15 in; 12.7 cm x 38.1 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
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.