Fire Helmet, "Saco"

Fire Helmet, "Saco"

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The traditional American leather firefighter’s helmet with its distinctive long rear brim, front shield, 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 front shield 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 aided in breaking windows.
This early leather fire helmet is interesting due to the inclusion of later features like the four combs and an extended rear brim, but lacking the metal eagle shield holder and leather shield. The hat has painted gold crossed torches on the back of the crown and a golden scroll that reads “SA CO.” This could refer to a company with the initials SA, or the town of Saco, Maine.
Currently not on view
Object Name
helmet, fire
date made
place made
United States
Physical Description
leather (overall material)
overall: 8 in x 13 in x 15 3/4 in; 20.32 cm x 33.02 cm x 40.005 cm
ID Number
accession number
catalog number
Credit Line
Gift of CIGNA Museum and Art Collection
See more items in
Cultural and Community Life: Fire Fighting and Law Enforcement
Data Source
National Museum of American History
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