Can anyone direct me to a reliable information site regarding the history of the Leather Helmet ??????????
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03-22-2004, 10:28 PM #1
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- Mar 2003
Leather helmet history ?????????????????
03-22-2004, 11:19 PM #2
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- Sep 1999
Courtesy of: http://www.petelamb.com/helmet.htm
If you gave each retiring jake the opportunity to take one piece of equipment with him into retirement, he would choose his helmet. There is no greater symbol of the American fire service than the traditional fire helmet. People wear helmets every day for a variety of reasons; construction workers, motorcycle riders, football and baseball players, and they all share a very similar type of helmet. None of these remotely resembles the fire helmet.
The helmet worn by the earliest American firefighters was indeed made of leather, but its similarity with the traditional helmet ends there. The first firefighter helmets were stove pipe type helmets similar to the hat made famous by President Lincoln. This helmet was made of rigid leather. The front of the helmet was painted with the name of the company the wearer belonged to. It did afford the wearer with some protection, but it was sadly lacking in several areas. The fire service lumbered along with this stove pipe type helmet until 1836. A New York City Firefighter by the name of Henry Gratacap, who had been a hat maker by trade, changed the whole design. In doing so, he invented what we refer to as the traditional American fire helmet. Gratacap designed this helmet to be absolutely functional. The reinforced conical dome was to protect the head from falling objects, the tall front shield was designed to break windows, the strange brim design was to capture water and redirect it to the rear of the helmet where it could cascade harmlessly off the back of the coat and not down the collar. This long rear brim could also be used to protect the wearer from intense heat. The helmet would be worn backwards and the firefighter would place his chin on his chest and the heat would be deflected away from the face. Old tillermen often wore the helmet like this when responding in heavy rain or snow to give their face a little protection from the elements. This helmet was snapped up by firefighters as soon as it hit the market. You were not doing the job if you didn't wear a CAP.
Innovations to the original design have been relatively slight. A suspension system was added, a liner to protect the neck and ears and eye shields are about the only changes. Manufacturers have tried aluminum, plastic and even rubber, but if you ask the average jake what kind of helmet lie prefers, he will most likely answer the leather. One hundred and sixty one years after its invention. the Gratacap is still the helmet of choice for American firefighters.
03-03-2005, 03:51 PM #3
thought this was interesting
HISTORY OF THE LEATHER HELMET
Jacobus Turck of New York City is credited with inventing the first fire cap around 1740. It was round with a high crown and narrow rim and was made of leather. Improvements on his design were made by Mathew DuBois, who sewed iron wire in to the edge of the brim to give the helmet shape and strength, and provide resistance to heat, moisture, and warping. The leather helmet as it is known today came from a very modest and non-fire related beginning. Although the year the traditional fire helmet was invented is mired in speculation and debate, it is generally agreed upon as sometime between 1821 and 1836. The gentleman credited with its founding was named Henry T. Gratacap. Gratacap was a volunteer fireman in New York City, but made his living as a luggage maker. He had made quite a name for himself because of his innovative luggage specifically designed for ocean transit. It was made of leather that was specially treated, which offered unparalleled durability and withstood wetness without rotting. These qualities were very desirable in a fire helmet as well and Gratacap designed the first “eight comb” (a design composed of eight segments) fire helmet. It was named the “New Yorker” and originally adopted by the New York City Fire Department (FDNY) in the late 1800s.
The New Yorker helmet has remained virtually unchanged through approximately 168 years of faithful and steadfast service. The New Yorker helmet retains the same look and quality that generations after generations of firefighters have relied upon. They are made of stout tanned Western cowhide, a quarter of an inch thick, reinforced with leather strips which rise like Gothic arches inside the crown. The long duckbill, or beavertail, which sticks out at the rear, is to keep water from running down firemen's necks. Originally, these helmets were sometimes worn backwards so the beavertail would protect its wearer from the intense heat of firefighting. Additionally, some tillermen (a name for the driver of the rear section of a tractor drawn aerial truck) would also wear them backwards to protect their faces from rain and snow.
During this time, two brothers named Cairns were operating a metal badge button and insignia business in New York City. The Cairns Brothers are credited with the idea of mounting an identification badge to the front of Gratacap’s helmets; today these are known as front pieces.
The two companies operated cooperatively until Gratacap’s retirement sometime in the 1850s, when the Cairns & Brother legacy was born; Cairns & Brother has pioneered firefighter helmet technology ever since. Cairns & Brother's commitment to protecting lives is evident in their "systems," where engineered components synergistically work together for unparalleled protection in harsh environments. The original OSHA compliant leather helmet, it is individually hand shaped, hand trimmed, and hand stitched to meet the strenuous demands of today’s most dangerous profession – firefighting.
The Leatherhead is a term used for a firefighter who uses the leather helmet for protection from the hazards we face everyday on the streets. The Leather Helmet is an international sign of a Firefighter, a symbol that is significant in not only tradition from the early years of firefighting, but one of bravery, integrity, honor and pride. This helmet is a sign of who we are, not what we are.
Although not a required component of the helmet, those of us who truly live the tradition wear a brass eagle adornment that graces the top of the helmet and secures its front piece. In our simple, childish way, we always believed that the eagle adorning our helmet meant something special, maybe the spirit of American enterprise, or onward to victory. We were wrong. The eagle, it seems, just happened, and has no particular significance at all. Long, long ago, around 1825 to be exact, an unknown sculptor did a commemorative figure for the grave of a volunteer fireman. You can see it in Trinity Churchyard today; it shows the hero issuing from the flames, his trumpet in one hand, a sleeping babe in the other, and on his helmet, an eagle. Firefighters were not wearing eagles at the time; it was a flight of pure fancy on the sculptor's part. But as soon as the firemen saw it, they thought it was a splendid idea and it was widely adopted. It has remained on firemen's helmets ever since, in spite of the fact that it has proved, frequently and conclusively, to be a dangerous and expensive ornament indeed. It sticks up in the air. It catches its beak in window sashes, on telephone wires. It is always getting dented, bent and knocked off. Every so often, some realist points out how much safer and cheaper it would be to do away with the eagle, but we who live the tradition always refuse.
http://www.salisburyfools.com/helmet_history.htmlIf my basic HazMat training has taught me nothing else, it's that if you see a glowing green monkey running away from something, follow that monkey!
04-17-2008, 11:34 PM #4
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- Apr 2008
History of the Leatherhead Helmet
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