Painted and decorated leather and felt parade hat for the Franklin Fire Company

Germantown, Philadelphia, PA, 1840-1860

The red ground decorated with polychrome portrait of Benjamin Franklin within a bannerette inscribed, "Franklin Fire Comy," embellished with gilt foliate flourishes, the back bearing the gilt date, "1764"; the top with gilt initials "W.G."; the hat numbered "92" on the inside band, underside of brim painted green, retains paper liner and leather inner brim.

H: 6 1/2 in. Diam: 13 1/4 in.


Property of a Philadelphia Collector.
Estimate $8,000-12,000

In January of 1764, Germantown citizens met at town hall to discuss means of protecting themselves from the ravages of fire--a daily occurrence in colonial America.

Germantown, in the northwest corner of Philadelphia, was too far from the centralized Philadelphia fire companies, and the roads were often too poor to reach the fire in time. The decision was, therefore, made to organize three separate volunteer fire companies: the Fellowship of the Upper Ward, the Fellowship of the Middle Ward and the Fellowship of the Lower Ward. The Fellowship of the Upper Ward, organized in March of 1764, located on Franklin Street, would eventually become the Franklin Fire Company. They adopted the portrait of Benjamin Franklin as their symbol, honoring the founding father and Philadelphian most closely associated with the founding of the city's fire fighting and insurance companies.

A related parade hat is found in the collection of the Mercer Museum.

Sold for $18,750 (buyer's premium included)