"Benjamin Franklin" Engine Panel Painting

Description
In the nineteenth century, volunteer fire companies often commissioned paintings to decorate their hand-pumped fire engines for parades, competitions, and community events. Sometimes framed with elaborate carvings, they adorned the tall air chamber located at the middle or rear of a pumper. The paintings would often feature patriotic, heroic, or allegorical images to associate the volunteer companies with these lofty ideals.
This fire engine panel painting of Benjamin Franklin is attributed to the Franklin Engine Company which operated in Philadelphia from 1792 until 1871. This painting by an unknown artist was completed around 1830, and is copied from the Joseph Duplessis’ portrait of Franklin with a fur collar. Benjamin Franklin was well known for organizing the first volunteer fire company in Philadelphia, and his image and his name were popular among the city’s fire companies. By invoking Franklin, volunteer firemen linked themselves to the progenitor of their trade, as well as someone who played a key role in the American Revolution. This painting and its companion (2005.0233.0306) would have adorned the sides of the company’s engine.
Location
Currently not on view
Object Name
painting, engine panel
date made
ca 1830
referenced
Duplessis, Joseph Siffred
Franklin, Benjamin
maker
unknown
Physical Description
wood (overall material)
oil paint (image material)
Measurements
overall: 15 1/2 in x 24 1/2 in; 39.37 cm x 62.23 cm
Place Made
United States: Pennsylvania, Philadelphia
ID Number
2005.0233.0305
accession number
2005.0233
catalog number
2005.0233.0305
subject
Fire Fighting
See more items in
Home and Community Life: Fire Fighting and Law Enforcement
Work
Cultures & Communities
Art
Engine Panel Paintings
Firefighting Collection
Data Source
National Museum of American History, Kenneth E. Behring Center

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