Fire Helmet Shield History

The original fire cap, invented by Jacobus Turck of New York City in 1731, had a round shape with a high crown and a narrow rim. Mathew DuBois made improvements to the design by adding iron wire to the edge of the brim, providing resistance to moisture, warping and heat. The fire cap, made of leather, became mandatory for all firefighters on duty in 1762.

Between 1821 and 1836, Henry Gratacap, a luggage maker and volunteer firefighter, designed his own leather helmet for firefighters later named the 'New Yorker.' Adopted by the New York City Fire Department (FDNY) during the late 1800s, the 'New Yorker' was an 'eight-comb' design, meaning that it had eight different segments. The leather used for the helmet was the same used by Gratacap for his luggage design, which was specially treated to withstand wetness without rotting. These helmets often were worn backwards to protect the firefighter's face against heat.

Enter The Cairns Brothers

In 1869 Gratacap sold his fire helmet business to two Cairns brothers, Jasper and Henry. The Cairns Brothers (who previously owned a metal badge, button and insignia business) developed the idea of putting badges on the front of the helmet for identification purposes. The badges were in the shape of a guitar pick and contained a brass eagle that extended from the top of the helmet to hold the badge in place. The idea for the eagle is credited to an unknown sculptor who designed a figure for a volunteer firefighter's grave. The figure on the grave was that of a firefighter, emerging from flames holding a sleeping child in one hand and a trumpet in the other. The figure wore a helmet with an eagle on it, which soon became part of the helmets worn by firefighters to this day. Source:

Still Worn Today

The Cairns leather New Yorker (N5A) is still around and worn by firefighters today. Cairns also produces an OSHA compliant model called the Sam Houston (N6A). They are still hand made, and prices for the helmets range from $550 to $650 - depending on chosen options. Each helmet requires a shield (also called a 'Front') that is purchased separately. That's where we come in! Our custom leather shields are 100% cow leather. They are tooled (embossed) into the leather, dyed, then painted and then sealed for protection. A perfect compliment to your helmet.

Shields on a Paul Conway, New Yorker, 1010, and Sam Houston
Custom Shields on Helmets

Custom Fire Helmet Shield on Phenix Helmet Custom Fire Helmet Shield on a Sam Houston Tin Fire Helmet with Custom Shield Tin Fire Helmet with Custom Shield

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