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Fire engine condenser case of Hudson Fire Company No. 1(?)

Object Name: Fire engine condenser case
Date: 1830
Related People:
Medium: Wood, oil paint, primer, metal
Dimensions: Overall: 30 x 19 x 12 1/2 in. ( 76.2 x 48.3 x 31.8 cm )
Place made: North America, United States, New York
Description: Wooden fire engine condenser case; half-cylindrical form with painted allegorical scene featuring crowned male figure with trident (Neptune) seated in a scallop shell upon the waves receiving a sextant from a winged female figure that hovers above him alongside another female figure seated next to a child and holding an infant; a cornucopia, a globe, and other scientific tools are pictured adjacent to female figures.
Credit Line: Purchased from Elie Nadelman
Object Number: 1937.1630
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Marks: Painted at top of panel: "PAINTED 1830. / Samuel Moore. / Foreman. / C. V. Anderson. / Assistant."; painted at bottom of panel: "Engine 9"

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.

During the nineteenth century, volunteer fire companies commissioned artists to emblazon their company emblems on their fire engines, particularly on the wooden covers concealing the pressure chambers of the hand-pumped vehicles. These decorative cases were typically created for parades and ceremonial occasions, but often became a permanent feature of fire engines.

The image decorating this case features iconography identical to a certificate printed by the newly-formed New York Nautical Institution in commemoration of the Erie Canal in 1825 (see Cadwallader Colden, Memoir [1825], pp. 203-4). A caption for the certificate in Colden's Memoir identifies the scene: "This device is emblematic of Science, Skill, and Benevolence; Science is characterized as an angel, with appropriate instruments, and bending from a cloud she delivers to Neptune a sextant, as the emblem of Naval Skill; Benevolence like a nursing mother, with her attendant circumstances, is seated on a cornucopiae, upon the same cloud with Science. This scene is represented as taking place outside of Sandy Hook; on the right of Neptune, who is seated on his naval car, is Staten Island; in the distant horizon is Sandy Hook Lighthouse; pilot-boats, ships outward and inward bound are placed under their appropriate positions." (Colden, p. 375-6)

Because the number associated with inscription at the lower center of the condenser case has been largely effaced, it is unclear to which Engine company this case belonged. The combination of the Neptune imagery and the case's date plausibly links it to three different fire companies: New York's Company No. 9, Neptune, No. 6, and Hudson No. 1. Hudson Engine Company No. 1 was the first volunteer fire company established in New York City. Cornelius V. Anderson and Samuel Moore, both named in the inscription on this case, were successive foremen of Hudson No. 1.

Provenance:

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

Exhibitions:

Paul Stuart, New York, NY, Fall 1979–Winter 1980.

"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.