This police hat, or “custodian helmet” as they were called, was used by an officer of the Covington (KY) Police Department in 1906-1907. It should look familiar. Some styles that were adopted by American metropolitan police departments in the mid- to late 19th century were the same as those predominately worn by English and European police officers. This one is modeled after a helmet worn by police officers in London from the 1860s.
Police uniforms weren’t immediately adopted or recognized in many U.S. cities. In 1853, New York became the first city to authorize police uniforms, followed by Boston in 1858, Philadelphia in 1860, and Chicago in 1861. In fact, some police departments didn’t formally adopt a uniform until well into the 20th century.
America owes much of their policing standards to the British, specifically to Home Secretary Robert Peel, after establishing the Metropolitan Police Act of 1829. Police in London, where the first professional policemen were established, were known as “Peelers” or “Bobbies.”
The National Law Enforcement Museum has thousands of law enforcement artifacts in our archives; too many to display at once. We offer this regularly scheduled blog to give you a peek into our archives.