Presentation Trumpet, "Thomas Mullen"

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 foot race at the Olympic Circus during the late 19th century. The trumpet features a raised floral motif on the lower portion of the trumpet and an overlapping scale pattern on the upper portion of the trumpet. The trumpet has two rings that are strung with a braided orange cord with tassels. One ring is in the beak of an eagle. There is an inset cartouche with the inscription “Won by/ Thomas Mullen/ of/ Jackson Engine Inc./ No. 4/ at the/ Olympic Circus /Paterson N.J. /Mile Foot Race/ Time 2-25 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
Object Name
trumpet, speaking
date made
Physical Description
silver plated (overall material)
silk (part: cord material)
overall: 18 3/8 in x 7 5/8 in; 46.6725 cm x 19.3675 cm
place made
United States
Associated Place
United States: New Jersey, Paterson
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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