Fire Bucket, "Union Fire Co."


This riveted leather bucket belonged to A. Stiles, a member of the Union Fire Company in Moorestown. The volunteer fire company provided men with the opportunity to prove their worth, fulfill a particular ideal of citizenship, and be instant heroes. Companies frequently chose names such as “Union,” which would demonstrate their patriotism, civic virtue, and devotion to American ideals. However, not everyone in nineteenth-century America was allowed to participate in fire companies and thus be acknowledged as a virtuous citizen. Firefighting was an exclusively male and Caucasian endeavor, as civic duty and property rights were considered the domain of white males. Women were not allowed in volunteer companies, though they might participate in limited ways, such as the bucket brigade. The volunteer fireman was celebrated as an ideal of masculinity; contests between companies, in which each would try to pump water the fastest and the highest, allowed men to put their masculinity on display. African-Americans were also not usually members of fire companies. In Philadelphia, blacks attempted to form their own African Fire Association in 1818, but community pressure and hostility from white companies quickly forced them to disband. Firefighters excluded people from public service, based on who they believed deserved the opportunity to prove their civic virtue.

Date Made: ca 1800

Maker: unknown

Location: Currently not on view

Classified: Fire Fighting


See more items in: Home and Community Life: Fire Fighting and Law Enforcement


Exhibition Location:

Credit Line: Gift of CIGNA Museum and Art Collection

Data Source: National Museum of American History

Id Number: 2005.0233.0262Accession Number: 2005.0233Catalog Number: 2005.0233.0262

Object Name: bucket, fire

Physical Description: leather (overall material)Measurements: overall: 12 1/2 in x 9 5/8 in; 31.75 cm x 24.4475 cm


Record Id: nmah_1340742

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