Early America

Fire service decoration from buckets
through hand powered engines.

In colonial times every land owner in a city kept one or two buckets by the front door, in case of fire. When the alarm sounded, the buckets were place outside and picked up by people running to the fire. Most of the time the buckets sat or hung in the entry way. They became part of the interior decoration and were painted to suit the owner's fancy.

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    Buckets were still needed to fill the tubs of the first fire engines. Colonial hand engines were imported from England or locally-made copies of those engines. The buckets were decorated while the engines were one plain color, perhaps two-tone.
    Decoration on fire engines first began after 1776 when Americans started building their own apparatus. The first builders were inventive, scientific, practical and stylish. The earliest decoration I have read about was simple stripes with flowers painted on the tub. By 1820 engines had spoked wheels and a front axle that could turn. They also had gold ornaments, oil paintings and bright colored backgrounds.

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