Fire Helmet, "Harmony 6 Fire Co."

Fire Helmet, "Harmony 6 Fire Co."

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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 John M. Migeod and Son of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in the 19th century. The black helmet has eight combs with a stamped ivy-vine design around the helmet’s brim. The rear brim of the helmet has the initials “FA” painted in gold flanking an image of a fire hydrant with protruding hose. This was the logo of the Fire Association of Philadelphia, an insurance company founded by a group of eleven volunteer engine companies and five volunteer hose companies in 1817. A metal frontpiece holder in the shape of a fox is mounted onto the crown of the helmet. The frontpiece is painted white, with a large black “6” in the center and the words “HARMONY / FIRE Co” on red banners arching around the top and bottom of the frontpiece. The Harmony Fire Company No.6 was founded in Philadelphia in 1784 by a group of Quakers. It operated as a hand engine company until 1855, when it refused to join the newly organized Philadelphia Fire Department, which, although volunteer, was under the administrative and financial control of the city. In 1867, the Franklin Hose Company No. 28 purchased its charter and operated as the Harmony Steam Fire Engine Company No. 6 until 1871 when Philadelphia’s paid firefighting department was established.
Object Name
helmet, fire
date made
around 1850
Migeod Company
John M. Migoed & Son
Migeod Company
Physical Description
leather (overall material)
black (overall color)
paint (overall material)
overall: 9 1/2 in x 14 1/2 in; 24.13 cm x 36.83 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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