Letters & lines

Gold leaf lettering and stripes came
standard on fire apparatus...

Most wagon and carriage shops had someone to add stripes to their vehicles. Adding gold ornaments often required a special "fancy painter" to come to the shop. Fire engine factories needed a full crew of painters, from apprentices to ornamenters.

      links to pages...

    The American stage coach was built and decorated to resemble European royal coaches. Some of the painters that decorated this Abbot & Downing coach also worked for the Amoskeag Mfg. Co., gilding locomotives and steam fire engines. The same style of heavy gold scroll work with asphaltum shading was used on all three types of vehicles.

Stripes narrate a vehicle. If you follow the stripes, they'll take you to all the important parts of a carriage, coach, tram, train, wagon, trolley or fire apparatus. The lines say:
    "Notice how this body is constructed."
    "Have a good look at this hardware."
    "Now come around back and see this..."

    Stripes were "Decoration", and every vehicle before WWI was decorated. A Studebaker farm wagon could not be ordered without stripes. It just wasn't done.
    On a wagon a few lines on the body and some stripes on the gear were enough. A fire engine was at the other end of the vehicle food chain. The tradition of heavy gold ornaments had been set by 1830. "Ornaments" were focal points within the decoration. They could be carved relief panels, oil paintings, mottoes or big gold scrolls. Modern fire engines still have a custom ornament of some sort on the door.

    When Ben Franklin was a young printer, most things in the colonies were printed in the same font, Caslon. Poor Richard's Almanack was printed in Caslon bold, regular and italic. The first printing of the Declaration of Independence and the proclamation on the Liberty Bell were set in Caslon.
    By 1818 the Farmer's Almanac was using many fonts, especially bold fonts with contrasting hair line strokes. America was the most literate country on earth at the time. Every fire engine had some name or motto to read... in elaborate lettering.

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