"Tiger's Head" 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 panel painting belonged to the Americus Company No. 6 of New York, New York which operated from 1848 to 1865. The panel is unsigned, but it is attributed to Joseph Hoffman Johnson, a founding member of the Americus Company and artist who painted the company’s famous “Big Six” engine. This tiger was the Americus Company’s mascot. William Marcy “Boss” Tweed was elected foreman of the Americus Company, and his influence and connections in New York led to his position of power in Tammany Hall and control over New York’s political system. The Americus Company’s use of the tiger as a mascot eventually led to its use as a symbol for Tweed’s Tammany Hall. The panel’s design is notable for the absence of patriotic or neoclassical imagery so prevalent in engine panel paintings. This painting and its companion (2005.0233.0316) would have adorned either side of the company’s engine.
Currently not on view
Object Name
painting, engine panel
date made
Physical Description
wood (overall material)
oil paint (iamge material)
overall: 16 3/4 in x 14 1/2 in; 42.545 cm x 36.83 cm
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
Credit Line
Gift of CIGNA Museum and Art Collection

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