- Beginning in the late 18th century, some volunteer fire fighters began to wear hats painted with their company’s name to identify themselves at chaotic fire scenes. During the 19th century, these fire hats became more ornate, as portraits of historical figures, patriotic scenes, allegorical images, or company icons were painted alongside the company’s name, motto, or founding date. Made of pressed felt, these “stove-pipe” hats were primarily used in Philadelphia, but other nearby cities such as Baltimore and Washington adopted them as well. Fire hats were personal items with the owner’s initials often painted on the top of the hat. While these hats were worn at fires, they are more colloquially known as “parade hats.” Fire companies commonly marched in the many parades of the period and these ornate hats contributed to the visual culture of their day. These distinguishing features in a company’s regalia often proclaimed the members’ cultural and political identity as well as their position on contested topics such as work, religion and immigration.
- This fire hat was used in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania during the first half of the 19th century. The hat is painted dark green overall, and the front bears a painted image of a spread-winged eagle, grasping an olive branch in one talon and three arrows in the other, with a golden harp hanging from a chain in its beak. There is a red banner on top of the image with the text “HIBERNIA” in gold. The image is reminiscent of the bald eagle on the seal of the United States, but the harp as a symbol of Ireland replaces the U.S. shield. The imagery points to the Hibernia Fire Company blending its Irish heritage with American patriotic ideals. The back of the hat has the date “1752” painted in gold. The Hibernia Fire Engine Company No. 1 was founded in 1752 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania as a hand engine company. It acquired a steam fire engine in 1858 and operated as a steam fire engine company until 1871 when Philadelphia’s paid firefighting department was established.
- Currently not on view
- Data Source
- National Museum of American History
- Hibernia Hose Company
- date made
- Credit Line
- Gift of CIGNA Museum and Art Collection
- Physical Description
- painted (overall production method/technique)
- fabric, pressed felt (overall material)
- paint (overall material)
- overall: 5 1/2 in x 12 1/4 in x 13 1/2 in; 13.97 cm x 31.115 cm x 34.29 cm
- Object Name
- hat, fire
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