Presentation Trumpet, "James F. Gaffney"

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 silver plated speaking trumpet was presented to James F. Gaffney and dates from the mid to late 19th century. The trumpet has a plain surface with beaded bands around the mouthpiece and upper and lower bulges in the trumpet. There is an egg and dart pattern stamped around the bell of the horn. Two gilded eagles’ heads are attached to the trumpet holding rings in their beaks that are connected by a braided purple cord with tassels on the end. There are decorative incisions around an engraving that reads “Presented to James F. Gaffney by his Friends for his Good qualities as a Fireman and his Virtues as a citizen.”
Currently not on view
Object Name
trumpet, speaking
date made
Physical Description
silver plate (overall material)
overall: 16 in x 7 1/2 in; 40.64 cm x 19.05 cm
Place Made
United States
ID Number
accession number
catalog number
Cultures & Communities
Firefighting Collection
Speaking Trumpets
See more items in
Home and Community Life: Fire Fighting and Law Enforcement
Firefighting Collection
Speaking Trumpets
Data Source
National Museum of American History, Kenneth E. Behring Center
Credit Line
Gift of CIGNA Museum and Art Collection
Additional Media

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