Work Trumpet, "J.H. Tillinghast"

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 brass speaking trumpet was used by J.H. Tillinghast of Providence, Rhode Island during the middle of the 19th century. The trumpet is unadorned with thin molded bands where the mouthpiece and the bell attach to the shaft. The bell has a simple inscription that reads “J.H. Tillinghast/ PROVIDENCE R.I.” A cord is tied to the neck of the trumpet to form a handle. The Tillinghast family is one of the oldest in Rhode Island.
Currently not on view
Object Name
trumpet, speaking
date made
Physical Description
brass (overall material)
overall: 15 3/8 in x 5 1/2 in; 39.0525 cm x 13.97 cm
place made
United States
Associated Place
United States: Rhode Island, Providence
ID Number
accession number
catalog number
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, Kenneth E. Behring Center


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