Jeff Bridgman Antique Flags
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Dimensions (inches): Frame - 11.75" x 50.25", Belt - 2.5" x 41"
This fireman's parade belt is of the type produced during the latter part of the 19th century, between roughly 1870 and 1900. Made of leather, the body of the belt is black. In the center is a recessed window, with a fancifully scalloped edge, behind which a red leather panel, upon which the word "Liberty" appears in raised, white letters. There is a white binding, it's edge trimmed with pinking shears to create a decorative border. There is metal buckle that fits into an opposing leather strap, small in scale and riveted beneath the outer, decorated one.

The words that appear on fireman's parade belts were customized, sometimes displaying the title of the wearer (i.e., "chief" or "clerk"), sometimes the name of the city or town, and sometimes the name of the station, as-is the case in this instance.

Attributed to Bloomsburg, Pennsylvania (Columbia County), I acquired it about 25 miles southwest, in adjacent Union County. Bloomsburg's first fire house, Friendship Fire Company, was established in 1868, shortly following the Civil War. Like most volunteer departments of that time, it was staffed by returning Union soldiers who volunteered, enjoying the comradery. Three more would follow, including Rescue Hose & Ladder (1870), Winona (1881), and Liberty Fire Company (1900). In the early 1990's the process was begun to modernize and consolidate all four stations into one. Liberty's fire house still stands on the 100 block of Leonard Street.

Probably made in the year the Liberty Fire Company was established, for related parades and festivities, the great thing about this belt is the combination of the wonderful, early, painted surface and the terrific verbiage. While words such as "Clerk," "Bloomsburg," or "Rescue" would have limited appeal, the word "Liberty" opens the playing field to a nation-wide audience. Fire memorabilia is fervently collected, but it is also widely adored by Americana collectors in general. When you find objects that span categories like this, marketability grows. By opening then open another category into the world of paint-decorated American folk art, and then overlapping into that of patriotic objects, desirability intensifies.

Despite the popularity of the word "Liberty" as a name for a fire station in the 19th century, this is the only parade belt I have personally seen that features it.

In the year that the new fire station was dedicated, a parade was held. As it passed by each historic fire house, the procession halted and taps was played as the American flag was lowered for the final time.

Mounting: The belt has been hand-stitched to a background of 100% hemp fabric or a hemp and cotton blend (we use both interchangeably). It was then placed in a two-part frame that consists of a scooped molding with a surface that is very dark brown in color, almost black, with red undertones and highlights, to which a cap was added with a finish that is constructed of wood, but has a finish that presents like antique iron. Spacers keep the object away from the glazing, which is U.V. protective plexiglass.

Condition: The leather tab that holds the buckle to the belt appears to have been replaced. Three of the rivets were replaced by a former owner. There is minor loss along the white border, minor soiling and paint loss.
Primary Color: black, red, white
Earliest Date: 1900
Latest Date: 1900
For Sale Status: Available
Price $6,500
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