"Benjamin Franklin" Engine Panel Painting

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.
Currently not on view
Object Name
painting, engine panel
date made
ca 1830
Duplessis, Joseph Siffred
Franklin, Benjamin
Physical Description
wood (overall material)
oil paint (image material)
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
accession number
catalog number
Fire Fighting
See more items in
Home and Community Life: Fire Fighting and Law Enforcement
Cultures & Communities
Engine Panel Paintings
Firefighting Collection
Data Source
National Museum of American History, Kenneth E. Behring Center


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