Above are some early American allegory paintings. The last one is America Guided by Wisdom. One of the reasons colonists came to the New World was for religious freedom. The parables in the Bible are allegories. Many European artists of the Renaissance and later painted these parables. People have been interpreting these paintings ever since. The images combine symbols and archetypal images into stories that can open a viewer to complex aspects of life. Learning the mythical figures, the Saints and poets was to improve one's thoughts and deeds. These paintings are about the ways to improvement.
In the early 1800s America was the most literate country in the world. Education was taken seriously by the people of this new country. Reading was how the public was going to become informed voters, able to arrange their own affairs. Stores and taverns had small pamphlets on many topics by the door. Public libraries were being formed by consolidating private collections. Reading was patriotic as well as liberating. The Greek myths were read in school, and then seen being played out in one's own town.
"You are more likely to see a comet, than an illiterate American"
George Washington, Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson and others were well known firefighters. It was easy to apply distinct virtues to them in paintings. Their images on early fire engines referred to the fact that they were fellow firemen. These leaders were also allegorical figures representing more than just the men themselves. Ben Franklin symbolizes American ingenuity and the inspiration that comes from being a free person. George Washington represented duty, responsibility, bravery and other virtues needed to fight fires. Firefighters themselves were symbols for a responsible, free and caring citizen.