Presentation Trumpet, "Hibernia Fire Company"

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 trumpet was presented to John M. Nesbitt of the Hibernia Fire Company by the Insurance Company of North America. The trumpet has decorative bands around the bell’s rim and the upper and lower portion of the trumpet. The bell also features a decorative band with a floral motif. The middle portion of the trumpet has an oval inset featuring high relief of a helmed Greek figure shown in profile view. There is a winged horse on the figure’s helmet and the oval inset is surrounded by decorative floral engravings. The other side of the trumpet has a diamond-shaped silver inlay with an inscription that reads “Presented by the Insurance Company of North America to John M. Nesbitt Esqr. of Hibernia Fire Company, Philadelphia.” A brown braided cord is attached to the trumpet by rings that are held by eagles’ beaks. John Maxwell Nesbitt was the first President of the board of directors for the Insurance Company of North America in 1792, as well as a member of the Hibernia Fire Company.
Currently not on view
Object Name
trumpet, speaking
date made
ca 1800
Physical Description
silver (overall material)
overall: 18 1/2 in x 7 1/2 in; 46.99 cm x 19.05 cm
place made
United States
Associated Place
United States: Pennsylvania, Philadelphia
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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