Red Cap at Railroad Museum of Pennsylvania

Sharing the Common Wealth showcases objects, artifacts, documents, structures and buildings from the collections of PHMC.

Station porters, mostly African American men who assisted travelers by carrying their luggage at large railroad stations, were easily identifiable by their bright red caps, which ultimately earned them the moniker “Red Caps.” In fact, station porters, whose only compensation was tips, founded a union in 1937 which they named the International Brotherhood of Red Caps. The vibrant, cherry-colored caps were a common sight depot platforms, beckoning passengers who needed help with their baggage or parcels. A red cap, circa 1920, worn by a station porter working for the Pennsylvania Railroad Company – whose payroll once included nearly a quarter-million employees recently acquired by the Railroad Museum of Pennsylvania at Strasburg, Lancaster County. The red cap will enable the museum to interpret an important and often overlooked aspect of railroad and social history: the role of African Americans in the transportation industry of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.