Presentation Trumpet, "Washington Engine Co."

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Description (Brief)
As more American volunteer fire fighting companies began to form during the late 18th century, a need emerged for better organized efforts in combating conflagrations. Engineers and officers would use “speaking trumpets” to amplify their voices over the noise and commotion of a fire scene to direct the company in effectively fighting the blaze. Two trumpet variants are reflected in the collection: plain and functional “working” trumpets that were actively used at fires, and highly decorated “presentation” trumpets. Presentation trumpets were awarded to firefighters in honor of their service, or between fire companies during visits, competitions, and musters.
This speaking trumpet was presented by the Philadelphia Engine Company No. 18 of Boston to Philadelphia’s Washington Engine Company in 1832. The trumpet is made of brass, with a tin mouthpiece and an upper half sheathed in leather. A purple cord with tassels is attached near the mouthpiece, though it is of a later date than the trumpet itself. The brass trumpet is missing its bell, but the shaft is engraved with the inscription “Presented by the Philadelphia Engine Co. No. 18 of Boston to the Washington Engine Co. of Philadelphia, 1832." The Philadelphia Engine Company was founded in 1825 on Beacon Street, near Boston Common. Soon after this trumpet was made, the company changed its name to Lafayette and eventually disbanded in 1851. The Washington Engine Company was founded in Philadelphia in 1796 and would remain active until the city changed over to a municipal fire department in 1872.
Currently not on view
date made
place made
United States
Associated Place
United States: Pennsylvania, Philadelphia
United States: Massachusetts, Boston
Physical Description
brass (overall material)
leather, tin (part: mouthpiece material)
overall: 21 in; 53.34 cm
ID Number
accession number
catalog number
Credit Line
Gift of CIGNA Museum and Art Collection
See more items in
Home and Community Life: Fire Fighting and Law Enforcement
Cultures & Communities
Firefighting Collection
Speaking Trumpets
Data Source
National Museum of American History


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