Fire Bucket, "Jonas White"

Fire Bucket, "Jonas White"

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This bucket, which belonged to Jonas White, is dated 1803 and is painted with the image of a sun. This design is known in heraldry as “the sun in his splendour”: it consists of a disc, drawn as a gentle, smiling face, surrounded by a series of alternate straight and wavy rays. The sun may symbolize a variety of things, such as enlightenment, knowledge, prosperity, greatness and eternal glory, or rebirth and regeneration. The name “Sun Fire Company” was fairly common in nineteenth-century America, as volunteer firefighters wanted to clothe themselves in symbols that would appeal to their neighbors and supporters, and they were eager to appropriate the qualities typically associated with the sun. Jonas White may have belonged to a Sun Fire Company, or he may have chosen the sun as a decorative symbol for his bucket simply because of its associations or because it was featured on his family crest.
Note: Regarding whether or not Jonas White was a member of a Sun Fire Company: There were Sun Fire Companies in both Philadelphia and Lancaster, PA, but there is no Jonas White listed in the 1800 Pennsylvania census (though he of course could have moved to Pennsylvania between 1800 and 1803). There was a Sun Fire Company in Alexandra, VA, but once again, there is no Jonas White listed in the 1808 Alexandria census (though he could have left Alexandria between 1803 and 1808). There was a Sun Fire Company in Baltimore, MD, but there is no Jonas White listed in either the 1803 or 1810 city directories for Baltimore.
Currently not on view
Object Name
bucket, fire
date made
19th century
Physical Description
leather (overall material)
overall: 19 1/2 in x 5 1/2 in; 49.53 cm x 13.97 cm
ID Number
accession number
catalog number
Credit Line
Gift of CIGNA Museum and Art Collection
Fire Fighting
See more items in
Cultural and Community Life: Fire Fighting and Law Enforcement
Data Source
National Museum of American History
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