Presentation Trumpet, "Vigilant Engine Company"

Presentation Trumpet, "Vigilant Engine Company"

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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 presented to the Vigilant Engine Company of Paterson, New Jersey in 1879. The trumpet is adorned with a variety of repoussé patterns and engravings. The trumpet is decorated with a floral motif, with shell designs around the rounded bands of the trumpet. The bands are decorated with raised ovals that encircle the shaft. The bell has a raised image of a crossed hook and ladder behind a work helmet. A shield-shaped insert on the center of the shaft bears the inscription “Presented/ to/ Vigilant Engine Company No. 6/ of Patterson NJ/ at the/ Annual Fair/ of/ Wilis St. Baptist Church/ April 1879.” Above the shield are two axes, two swords, and a belt. A braided red cord is tied to the top and bottom of the trumpet to create a strap. The Vigilant Engine Company was founded on January 1st, 1867.
Currently not on view
Object Name
trumpet, speaking
date made
ca 1879
place made
United States
Physical Description
brass (overall material)
overall: 20 1/2 in x 9 1/4 in; 52.07 cm x 23.495 cm
ID Number
accession number
catalog number
Credit Line
Gift of CIGNA Museum and Art Collection
See more items in
Cultural and Community Life: Fire Fighting and Law Enforcement
Cultures & Communities
Firefighting Collection
Speaking Trumpets
Data Source
National Museum of American History
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