Slatington Hose Company Leather Firefighter’s Helmet (c.1890)

Curator's Choice tells the stories behind prized objects and artifacts from the collections of historical organizations and cultural institutions in Pennsylvania.

Realizing their borough lacked a system for fighting fires, the residents of Slatington, located in northern Lehigh County, organized the Slatington Hose Company, Number 1, in 1885. Much like most firefighting units of the day, the Slatington Hose Company, Number 1, quickly became an important – and integral – part of the community.

A significant piece of local firefighting memorabilia, a circa 1890 leather firefighter’s helmet owned by Francis A. Kreitz, one of the founding members of the Slatington Hose Company, Number 1, has recently been acquired by the Lehigh County Historical Society. Kreitz’s name is written on the inside of the helmet. A metal eagle’s head caps a large shield bearing the name of the fire company on the front of the helmet. The helmet’s broad brim offered Kreitz protection from water and debris and shielded his face from smoke. Its elongated rear brim helped prevent water from running down his back.

In the early days of firefighting, in late eighteenth-century Boston, for instance, helmets were worn as a means of identification. During the nineteenth century, however, they evolved as protective headgear, remaining little changed to this day.

The historical society’s extensive fire fighting collection contains photographs, prints, badges, uniforms, axes, and parade belts, as well as a hose carriage purchased in 1875 by Allentown’s Hiber­nia Hose Company, Number 6, from the Hibernia Fire Company of Philadelphia.

For nearly a century, the Lehigh County Historical Society has been sharing the story of the county’s history and heritage through both collections and historic buildings. For more information, write: Lehigh County Historical Society, Old Courthouse, P.O. Box 1548, Allen­town, PA 18105-1548; or telephone (610) 435-1074.