Presentation Trumpet, "Thomas Mullen"

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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 silver plated trumpet was presented as a trophy to Thomas Mullen for winning a half-mile foot race during the late 19th century. The trumpet features a raised floral motif, with an engraved image of a hose reel on the bell. The trumpet has two rings that are strung with a braided orange cord with tassels. There is an inset cartouche with the inscription “Won by/ Thomas Mullen/ of Jackson Engine Co./ No. 4/ at the/ Olympic Circus/ Paterson, N.J./ 1/2 mile Foot Race/ Time 2 min. 38 sec.” Fire companies would often meet at community gatherings to compete in a variety of physical contests, including foot races in order to demonstrate their fitness as firefighters.
Currently not on view
date made
19th century
place made
United States
Associated Place
United States: New Jersey, Paterson
Physical Description
silver plated (overall material)
overall: 21 in x 7 3/8 in; 53.34 cm x 18.7325 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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