Fire Engine Plate, "John Agnew, Builder"

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 silver engine maker's plate features several engraved names of the manufacturers and decorators who contributed to the creation of the unknown engine to which this plate was originally affixed. The rectangular plate reads: “John Agnew, Builder 1850 / Edmund Young, Painter / John A. Woodside, Ornamentalist / Robert S. Smith, Carver / Milton F. Harrison, Engraver/ James R. Hatrick, Plater / Committee / Benj. A. Watkins, John J. Dallas / Wm. Felt, Sam'l Lenoir, Wm. H. Gibson.” John Agnew was a well-known maker of hand-pumped fire engines in Philadelphia during the middle of the 19th century, and painter John Woodside was acclaimed for his decorative paintings, especially those he executed on fire engine panels.
Currently not on view
Object Name
plate, fire engine
date made
Physical Description
metal (overall material)
overall: 3 in x 6 in; 7.62 cm x 15.24 cm
place made
United States
ID Number
accession number
catalog number
Fire Fighting
See more items in
Home and Community Life: Fire Fighting and Law Enforcement
Cultures & Communities
Firefighting Collection
Fire Engine Plates
Data Source
National Museum of American History, Kenneth E. Behring Center


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