The most important piece of fire-fighting equipment from the seventeenth to early nineteenth centuries was a leather fire bucket. Standard-size buckets, such as the six George Washington purchased for $19 from Philadelphia saddler and retailer William Jones on March 10, 1797, held approximately 2 ½ to 3 gallons of water or sand. Philadelphia's shoemakers crafted many of that city's buckets, which exhibit less decoration than their New England counterparts. Washington's, neatly emblazoned with his name, are typical examples. At Mount Vernon, the buckets stood ready for use in the first-floor servants' hall; and they have never left the estate. These incredibly rare survivals powerfully remind us of the very serious threat fires were to life and livelihood in the eighteenth century.
Hand-sewn, black leather bucket with tapered, rounded sides, heavy rolled rim, and pedestal foot. Single leather-covered rope handle is secured by D-shaped iron rings attached with leather lugs at opposite sides of rim. Exterior painted with "George Wafhington" in black letters against a white band.
One of six fire buckets, W-403/A-F.
Leather, paint, hemp, possibly linen (thread), iron
Overall: 13 in. x 9 in. (33.02 cm x 22.86 cm)
Overall (Height of bucket): 13 in. (33.02 cm)
Overall (Diameter of rim): 8 in. (20.32 cm)
Overall (Diameter of foot): 6 1/4 in. (15.88 cm)
Transferred to the Mount Vernon Ladies' Association through the generosity of John Augustine Washington III, 1860
Stamped on underside (beneath seam at rear): "P·ABEL"
Remnants of a rectangular white paper label affixed on underside (partly covering Abel's stamp), letterpress printed in black: (reads in full) "WILLIAM JONES,/ SADDLER, HARNESS, &/ TRUNK-MAKER,/ No. 88 Chefnut, Four Doors/ below Third Street, near the/ Cross Keys, PHILADELPHIA."
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