• FA-123543 © Technisches Museum Wien, Photo: Peter Sedlaczek
Collection Area
Everyday Life
Disaster Control and Civil Protection
1900 - 1909
At the moment this object is not published in the museum.

Fireman’s speaking trumpet, 16th century


Speaking trumpets were once essential to the safety of cities. An early specimen some two and a half metres in length is now at the Technisches Museum Wien.

In the 16th century the speaking trumpet was used by the fireman keeping watch up on Graz’s Schlossberg, a hill overlooking the town. If a fire broke out, the watchman would use the trumpet to bellow ‘Fire!’ so his warning could be heard clearly all around. Horns of this type made of tin metal were also used in Vienna. From 1534 onwards, the watchman on fire duty would sit up in the Türmerstube [‘towerer’s room’] of St. Stephen’s Cathedral, once the tallest building in the city. If he spotted a fire, he would wave a red flag or a red lantern in the direction of the blaze. And he would use the speaking trumpet to warn the city’s inhabitants. A written message would be sent down to the tower master via a downpipe, who would then use a bell-pull to raise the alarm with the fire brigade.

By the mid-19th century the acoustic warning signal was no longer loud enough to stand out from the increasingly loud ambient noise in town and city centres. To speed up communications, telegraphic connections were set up between the watch towers and the fire brigade stations. Thereafter, the speaking trumpets were used less and less, and that includes the exhibit at the Technisches Museum. By the early 20th century, they had become completely obsolete.

Inv.Nr. 11935
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