Artisans

Blacksmiths, wheelwrights, carpenters,
coach painters, leather workers...

An artisan ioften hired a journeyman helper and also trained an apprentice. This system came over with European craftsmen. In America the artisan was an active member of the social order. Artisans displayed their individual skill and style to a independent public. Imagination and invention were admired by citizens of the new republic. Fire companies were good customers of local artisans. Firemen would order a higher priced paint job for their hand engine than for their own private vehicle.

Back when fire engines had no painted decoration, the buckets that fed the engines were elaborately painted... even gilded.

    In many colonial cities each property owner was obligated to have two buckets. This was their contribution to the bucket brigade. When the fire alarm sounded, the buckets were placed outside the the front door of each residence and business. Kids would run down the street gathering up the buckets.
    Most of the time the buckets sat or hung in the front entry room. They became room elements and got decorated along with the rest of the interior. The buckets would at least have the name of the owner painted on them so they could be returned. They were often marked No.1 and No.2

    In a city a builder would often send the newly finished engine to an artisan that specialized in painting signs and vehicles. Each paint job was custom designed for that engine. Fire companies would vote on the color they wanted their engine to be. They would also decide on themes for any oil paintings, and even which artist they wanted to work on their engine.

    The early engines were owned by the fire company or a fire insurance company. A new engine usually came with decoration. You could order plain or fancy. Plain still included stripes and lines, just no scrolls or oil paintings. Fire companies proudly paid the most skilled artisans in the community to repaint the engine when it became worn. The engines were built to work for decades. Rebuilt and repainted hand engines were always in demand by growing towns.

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