This shield-shaped metal fire badge may have belonged to a member of the Rapid Hose Company No. 1 of Kingston, New York. The etching on this badge is different from many badges in the collection, as it appears to have been done by hand rather than machine made. The badge is plated in silver-colored metal, and etched to reveal copper colored lettering that reads “RAPID/1/HOSE.” The center of the badge is decorated with floral scrolls and geometric carvings.
Metal firefighter’s badges were a part of the firefighter’s uniform since volunteer companies began to proliferate in the early 19th century. As volunteer companies gave way to municipal fire departments during the mid–19th century, these badges became mandated by uniform codes. Badges served as official identification at fire scenes, as access to derelict buildings by unscrupulous citizens could result in looting. Fire badges came in a variety of shapes, most notably circular, shield–shaped, or the Maltese cross. While shield–shaped badges were often worn on the chest, circular and cross-shaped badges can be seen on jacket lapels or soft caps. Badges usually detailed the company’s name, number and department, and were often decorated with various symbols of the profession such as hose carriages, hand–pumped engines, hoses, trumpets, helmets, hooks, and ladders. For paid municipal companies, many badges also featured the badge number of the wearer.