"Portrait of a Fireman" 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 painting belonged to the Eagle Fire Engine Company No. 13 of New York, New York that was active from 1783 to 1865. The oil painting was created by an unknown artist around 1863. The painting is a full-length portrait of Chief Engineer Harry Howard. Howard is holding a speaking trumpet and resting his hand on a table that bears his work helmet. Upon his death in 1896, Howard was the last surviving Chief Engineer of the Volunteer Fire Department of New York City. A great supporter for the paid Metropolitan Fire Department established in 1865, Howard advocated for pay raises for firemen, the establishment of a firefighter’s retirement home, and gave $1,000 to the exempt firemen’s burial fund. This painting and its companion (2005.0233.0310) would have adorned either side of the company’s engine.
Location
Currently not on view
date made
ca 1863
maker
unknown
Associated Place
United States: New York, New York
Physical Description
wood (overall material)
oil paint (image material)
Measurements
overall: 27 in x 29 in; 68.58 cm x 73.66 cm
ID Number
2005.0233.0311
accession number
2005.0233
catalog number
2005.0233.0311
Credit Line
Gift of CIGNA Museum and Art Collection
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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