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The Green Tree: Highlights from the Collection of the Mutual Assurance Company of Philadelphia - April 2007
 
 
painting
 
James Hill

United States Fire Company Parade Hat, c. early 1860s
Pressed felt, 6 1/4 × 2 3/4 inches
Stamped on the inside of the crown: “James Hill 531 Callowhill St.”
References: Garvan and Wojtowicz 1977, 133–134, color pl.
RS 6326


This particularly elaborate, pressed-felt parade hat was owned by a member of the United States Fire Company whose initials “W. H. A.” are painted on its top. The company, which was founded in Philadelphia in 1811, required members to have uniforms made by individuals of their own choice provided that the articles of clothing adhered to its specifications. The hatter James Hill followed his father’s trade and opened his own shop in 1857. He is known to have worked at 531 Callowhill Street from 1861 until 1873. This hat was probably made during the early 1860s, at a time when the top-hat form was falling out of fashion and being replaced by New York–style helmets.

The distinctive patriotic emblem that emphasizes vigilance and dominance was probably adapted from a painting. The ship in the background has been identified as the Ohio, which served as the flagship of the American naval hero Commodore Isaac Hull from 1839 to 1841. The vessel, which was widely admired as the perfect battleship, was active in the Mediterranean, where it protected commerce and suppressed the slave trade off the African coast. There are slight variations in the emblems on the surviving United States Fire Company parade hats because they were painted by different artists.


  


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