Firefighter Parades


Fire engines worked at parades,
musters, conventions and firemen's balls.

Parades displayed fire engines up close to the public, showing impressive mechanics and beautiful ornamentation. City fires drew huge crowds to see the apparatus in action. In the early 1800's each volunteer engine company was independent and each engine had unique decoration. An engine could be identified from afar by the engine's coloring and decoration.


Early fire engines in New York and other cities were designed to be paraded. They were in parades several times a year. Each engine had distinct colors and stripes, easily distinguished from 100 feet away. When one got within 10 feet, thin lines became visible, moving across the colored surface. An oil painting would draw a person right up to the engine where the mechanism of the pump could be inspected. This machine was made to be looked at closely. The burnished gold would flash in the sun and also reflect the flames at a fire.

Speaking trumpets were a tool of the colonial firefighter. Through the 19th century the tin or brass form was elevated to become a presentation trophy. At the time of a parade or muster there could be presentations to deserving members of the Company. At a firemen's ball or other event hosted by the fire company, engraved water pitchers, trays and serving item were displayed. The fire company wanted to appear fashionable, cultured, and role models within their community.

These silver trumpets were as highly decorated as the engines of that time. Scrolls, flowers, inscriptions, etc. were cast, embossed and engraved across the surface. When I see these presentation trumpets I am reminded of the silver work of Paul Revere. He set a standard for elegant craftsmanship that certainly influenced later silver smiths working for fire companies.