Jeff Bridgman Antique Flags
Home  /  Sold Antiques

Dimensions (inches): 12.25" w x 13.5" d x 6.25" tall
Early fire hat, made by and bearing the label of G.G. Stambach of Philadelphia. Made of pressed felt, like most of its kind, the imagery and decoration appear primarily in sunfire red and gold gilt paints on a black ground. In the center of the front is an oval medallion bearing a beautifully executed portrait of Thomas Jefferson, above in below which, in billowing streamers, are the words "Independence Hose Co." One the reverse, the letters "I.H." are painted in fanciful script, to represent the name of the company, while on the top of hat, the initials of the owner, "W.C.W." appear within a shield-shaped emblem. Gilt striping decorates the top and bottom of the crown. The edge of the brim is red, as-is its underside.

Independence Hose was located in the Northern Liberties district of Philadelphia, where West George Street intersected Cohocksink Creek. The creek is no longer there, but at the time would have provided a ready water supply for Independence Hose and was located roughly between 2nd Street and Bodine, perhaps where North American Street is located today.

George Geist Stambach (b. April 1st, 1812, d. September 19th, 1876) was a hat and fur merchant in Philadelphia from 1837 - 1863. At the time of the manufacture of the hat, his business was located at 400 N. 2nd Street, Philadelphia, about a mile south of Independence Hose. At some point, probably later, he was at 710 North Street. Stambach was both an active Mason and Odd Fellow. On June 4th, 1837, he married Sara Jane French (b. June 12th, 1816, d. December 1st, 1884).

When the Civil War broke out in 1861, at age 49, Stambach felt that he was too old for combat, so he instead chose to contribute by caring for the sick and wounded. Immediately following the battle of Gettysburg, in July of 1863, he organized a band of nurses and assistants, consisting of himself, his daughter, Dr. Anna Stambach, a Mrs. Elizabeth Turner, a man by the name of Cyrus Whitson, and several others. At Stambach's expense, the group was outfitted with sufficient supplies and traveled to the battlefield to lend their aid, treating the wounded for several weeks following the battle.

The Smithsonian provides an excellent description of early fire hats, the reason behind their emergence, decoration, and use:

"Beginning in the late 18th century, some volunteer fire fighters began to wear hats painted with their company’s name to identify themselves at chaotic fire scenes. During the 19th century, these fire hats became more ornate, as portraits of historical figures, patriotic scenes, allegorical images, or company icons were painted alongside the company’s name, motto, or founding date. Made of pressed felt, these “stove-pipe” hats were primarily used in Philadelphia, but other nearby cities such as Baltimore and Washington adopted them as well. Fire hats were personal items with the owner’s initials often painted on the top of the hat. While these hats were worn at fires, they are more colloquially known as “parade hats.” Fire companies commonly marched in the many parades of the period and these ornate hats contributed to the visual culture of their day. (Source: National Museum of American History, Kenneth E. Behring Center, Smithsonian Institution).

Condition: Paint surface excellent, with nice craquelure. There are cracks in the leather, with associated paint loss, on the top and brim, accompanied by minor paint loss elsewhere, in limited areas. Overall form is very nicely shaped and stable. Liner loose on the interior with significant deterioration and loss, carefully stabilized with archival glue by our textile conservation staff. I am unaware of any other restoration. Appears otherwise unmolested; an exceptional example.
Primary Color: black, red, gold
Earliest Date: 1837
Latest Date: 1850
For Sale Status: Sold
Price SOLD
Page Views:... 576