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History Of The Month

Goldleaf! Just the name brings up an image of style, class & beauty. Gold! We know it's shiny, brilliant and sought after. For more than 250 years, firefighters have decorated their apparatus in gold. This has added company pride, individuality and a certain esprit de corps to the fire service.

Early decorators took many forms, since the old goose-neck hand pumpers were readily adaptable to fancy decoration by their very design. The high-backed panels left plenty of room for decoration. In fact, some of the best American artists at work in the early 19th century were commissioned by fire companies to paint panels and to design other decorations for their fire engines and hose carriers.

Plating of silver and gold was used to decorate the brass work. Goldleaf was used to place banners and streamers around artwork, then adapted to lettering on the rigs. Eventually, the use of goldleaf became synonymous with fire engine decoration. The addition of gold insignias and outlines, often quite elaborate, became commonplace on fire trucks.

Fire companies and departments have used the same design on their rigs from one new truck to the next. Lettering, scrollwork, shading styles and banners made popular by manufacturers such as American LaFrance and Mack have carried on even if the fire company has changed manufacturer for their new truck.

The goldleafer painstakingly measures and adapts these classic old designs, then recreates them on fire trucks that in many cases, have very different lines and styles to them. This is where the artist decides how best to work the goldleaf into classic designs on modern machines.

Unlike vinyl lettering, which fades and cracks with exposure to the sun and elements, goldleaf retains its brilliance. For thousands of years, it has been the elegant choice of kings, emperors, businesses, artisans, decorators and those that enjoy and appreciate its beauty.

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