Fire Engine Plate, "L. Button"

Description (Brief)
At the core of any fire company is the apparatus used to fight fires and protect lives. This was particularly true of for the volunteer fire fighters in 19th century America. Often purchased with their own funds, their fire engines were the focus of their pride and affection, as well as their identities as fire fighters. Engine plates, often made of brass, would be prominently affixed to engines and inscribed with the company name, number, and founding date. Engine plates could pass from old engine to new, or be kept in the firehouse as a memorial to a departed apparatus.
This metal plate was attached to an engine that was made by Lysander Button of Waterford, New York around 1864. The shield-shaped plate bears the text “L. BUTTON/BUILDER/Waterford, N.Y./PATENTED, 1864/No. 10”with a variety of curving decorative incisions around the text. At the bottom is the maker's mark for the shield itself—“C. E. RICE / WORCESTER." The reverse is stamped “W. L. ROBINSON / 334.” Lysander Button was a machinist working in New York from 1841 to 1882 who held numerous patents relating to the manufacture and operation of hand-pumped and steam fire engines. The 1864 patent listed on this plate was patent number 42,5S7 that related to the improvement in steam fire engines.
Currently not on view
Object Name
plate, fire engine
Physical Description
metal (overall material)
overall: 7 1/2 in x 6 1/2 in; 19.05 cm x 16.51 cm
ID Number
accession number
catalog number
Cultures & Communities
Fire Fighting
Firefighting Collection
Fire Engine Plates
See more items in
Home and Community Life: Fire Fighting and Law Enforcement
Firefighting Collection
Fire Engine Plates
Data Source
National Museum of American History, Kenneth E. Behring Center
Credit Line
Gift of CIGNA Museum and Art Collection

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