Firemen of the 19th century often participated in parades while wearing painted stove pipe “parade hats” such as this example from the collections of the Berks History Center. The date on the hat, 1773, is a reference to the date on which Reading’s Rainbow Fire Company was established. This particular hat might have been worn in 1873, when the Rainbow Fire Company participated in a particularly large parade to celebrate their 100th anniversary.
The hat is discretely marked with the name “J. Angstadt”. In the mid-1800s, Reading was home to a Joel, a Jacob a Joseph and two John Angstadt’s. We assume that one of these men served with the Rainbow Fire Company and wore this hat. However, since Joel and Joseph Angstadt were well known painters, it is possible that one of them also supplied the art work.