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Object Name: Cake board
Date: 1825-1835
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Medium: Mahogany
Dimensions: Overall: 8 x 14 1/2 x 1 in. ( 20.3 x 36.8 x 2.5 cm )
Place made: North America, United States, New York
Description: Rectangular wooden cake board carved on one side with image of three firemen pulling Manhattan fire engine number 8 within a swag and star oval frame; reverse carved with image of three firemen pulling Superior fire engine number 17 within an oval foliate frame.
Credit Line: Purchased from Elie Nadelman
Object Number: 1937.1562
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Marks: Carved on obverse: "MANHATTAN" (above fire engine) and "8" (2 times on engine); carved on reverse: "SUPERIOR" (above fire engine) and "17" (on engine)

Gallery Label:

This object was once part of the folk art collection of Elie Nadelman (1882-1946), the avant-garde sculptor. From 1924 to 1934, Nadelman's collection was displayed in his Museum of Folk Arts, located in the Riverdale section of the Bronx. The Historical Society purchased Nadelman's entire collection in 1937.

Molds created in New York were often elaborate and large, depicting major events of the day or simply embellished with symbols of luck and the New Year. This double sided cake print with a hand drawn fire engine on each side is an unsophisticated example of this art form. Each side features a pointed oval enclosing an early engine pulled by three firefighters, the leader with his speaking trumpet raised as if directing his fellow volunteers to a fire. One side depicts an engine with the number "17" on the cylinder and the name "SUPERIOR" above; the other has the number "8" and the name "MANHATTAN" in the same locations. With deep crisp gouging, the carver rendered the engines with detail suggesting first-hand knowledge of fire vehicles, even delineating the decoration on the condenser cases at the rear.


The Folk Art Collection of Elie and Viola Nadelman, Riverdale, NY


"Kid City," New-York Historical Society, June 25, 1998–March 31, 2002.

"Making It Modern: The Folk Art Collection of Elie and Viola Nadelman," Albuquerque Museum of Art and History, NM, September 6–November 29, 2015; New-York Historical Society, May 20–August 21, 2016; Addison Gallery of American Art, Andover, MA, September 17–December 31, 2016.