Presentation Trumpet "Fireman's Exempt Association"

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 the Firemen’s Exempt Association by the Liberty Steam Fire Engine Company, both of Paterson, New Jersey in 1890. The three sections of the trumpet are connected by bulging bands with decorated engravings. The upper section of the trumpet has a floral engraving. The center section of the trumpet has an oval cartouche containing an inscription that is surrounded by floral engravings. The inscription reads “Presented by Liberty S.F.E. Co. No. 7 to the Firemen’s Exempt Assoc. 1890, Patterson, N.J.” The bell of the trumpet has an engraving of a fire engine that is surrounded by floral engravings. An orange braided cord with tassels is attached to the trumpet by rings going through miniature fire helmets. The Firemen’s Exempt Association was a group formed to foster camaraderie between volunteer firemen after they had ceased participating in active duty, and fraternal visits between active fire companies and veterans groups were common practice in 19th century fire service.
Currently not on view
Object Name
trumpet, speaking
date made
Physical Description
silver plate (overall material)
silk (part: rope material)
overall: 22 1/4 in x 9 1/2 in; 56.515 cm x 24.13 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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