Fire Helmet, "Friendship 15 1796"
Fire Helmet, "Friendship / 15 / 1796"
- 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 manufactured by Cairns & Brother of New York, New York around the late 19th century. The helmet has eight combs with an ivy vine scrollwork pattern stamped into the brim of the helmet. The metal eagle’s head mounted on the crown of the helmet serves as a frontpiece holder for the gold leather frontpiece that reads “FRIENDSHIP / 15 / 1796.” The Friendship Fire Engine Company of Northern Liberties, Philadelphia was founded August 18, 1796 and operated as a hand engine company until 1871 when Philadelphia’s paid firefighting department was established.
- Currently not on view
- Object Name
- helmet, fire
- date made
- ca 1900
- Cairns & Brother
- place made
- United States: New York, New York City
- Physical Description
- leather (overall material)
- overall: 8 1/2 in x 14 in; 21.59 cm x 35.56 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
- Clothing & Accessories
- Fire Helmets
- Firefighting Collection
- Data Source
- National Museum of American History
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