Presentation Trumpet, "General Phinney"

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 presentation trumpet was used by the General Phinney Engine Company of Scranton, Pennsylvania in 1877. The trumpet is decorated with engravings and repousse patterns of leaves, flowers, palmettes, scrolls and the like. An inscription is surrounded by a floral oval cartouche that reads “General Phinney/ ENGINE CO./ No. 4/ Organized/ Feb. 29, 1877/ Scranton, Pa.” The other side of the trumpet bears an engraved image of a spider type hose reel. Two eagle heads are attached to the trumpet and hold rings in their beaks that connected by a thin ribbon. General Elisha Phinney was a prominent figure in Scranton in the second half of the 19th century. Phinney ran a wholesale flour and feed business, opened and operated a series of mines, organized and directed the Second National Bank of Scranton, was president of the Merchant’s and Mechanics Bank, president of the Stowers’ Packing and Provision Company, and Treasurer of the Lackawann and Susquehanna Coal and Iron Company. He received his title of General as a member of the antebellum militia, but organized and equipped volunteer regiments when the Civil War began. The General Phinney Engine Company Number 4 was located at 4 Dickson Avenue in Scranton, Pennsylvania.
Currently not on view
Object Name
trumpet, speaking
date made
ca 1877
Physical Description
silver plated (overall material)
overall: 20 3/4 in x 8 3/4 in; 52.705 cm x 22.225 cm
place made
United States
Associated Place
United States: Pennsylvania
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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