Boldly Painted Pair
Leather Fire Buckets
Signed by the Maker!
…..& Rarely Found BAG

Charlestown, Massachusetts, circa 1807.
Oil on leather.

Red rimmed, the fronts with spread wing eagles clutching olive branches and arrows above banners reading "JEFFERSON FIRE SOCIETY", the name "S. S. SWEETSER," and dated "1807 " the backs painted "CHARLESTOWN" vertically along the sewn seam. Accompanying the buckets is a draw string canvas bag which would have been used to carry precious possessions from the fire. Very early in their life, the buckets and the bag were transferred from one owner to another, and just the names on each were updated to that of the new owner.

Each bucket intaglio impressed:

Reference:  In A Century of Town Life: A History of Charlestown, Massachusetts, 1775-1887, Hunnewell, Boston, 1888: "The old Fire Societies were formed and maintained for the public or social good. There were three organized after the Revolution, the Phoenix, the Washington, and the Jefferson... composed of householders acting for mutual protection or aid, and maintained until paid public companies took the place of such early and more restricted associations... Each member was obliged to keep two leather buckets, two bags with his name on them, and a bed-key and, on notice of a fire must 'repair with his bucket, bags, and key, to the place where it happens' and 'use his best endeavors' to save the property of the members."

The fire buckets are outstanding works of HISTORIC ART that would show equally well in a period or contemporary setting. About 14 inches tall, both have expected craquelure with very thin later over-varnish. The handles are detached yet kept inside; the bag in remarkable condition. The canvas drawstring bag about 4 x 2 feet.  From a private New England collection.