The museum is open Fridays through Tuesdays 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Free timed-entry passes are required. Review our latest visitor safety guidelines.

Fire Helmet, "Western Hose SFE Co. 26"

Fire Helmet, "Western Hose SFE Co. 26"

<< >>
Usage conditions apply
Downloads
Description
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 manufactured by Cairns & Brother of New York, New York around 1860. The helmet has eight combs and is painted black overall. An ivy-vine scrollwork pattern is stamped around the brim of the hat. A metal eagle’s head is attached to the crown of the helmet to serve as a frontpiece holder. The leather frontpiece reads “WESTERN / HOSE / 26 / SFE Co.” Founded in 1836 as the Western Hose Company No. 26 of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, it acquired a steam fire engine in 1863 and operated as the Western Hose and Steam Fire Engine Company No.26 until their services were dispensed with by Common Council in September 14, 1867.
Location
Currently not on view
Object Name
helmet, fire
date made
ca 1860
maker
Cairns & Brother
place made
United States: New York, New York City
Physical Description
leather (overall material)
Measurements
overall: 8 in x 10 3/4 in x 14 in; 20.32 cm x 27.305 cm x 35.56 cm
ID Number
2005.0233.0223
accession number
2005.0233
catalog number
2005.0233.0223
Credit Line
Gift of CIGNA Museum and Art Collection
See more items in
Cultural and Community Life: Fire Fighting and Law Enforcement
Work
Clothing & Accessories
Fire Helmets
Firefighting Collection
Data Source
National Museum of American History
Nominate this object for photography.   

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.

If you would like to know how you can use content on this page, see the Smithsonian's Terms of Use. If you need to request an image for publication or other use, please visit Rights and Reproductions.

Comments

Add a comment about this object