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Hand & Horse Drawn Apparatus


The listing below contains information on eight of the the museum's major holdings of hand and horse drawn apparatus.  Return to the Hand and Horse Drawn Apparatus Main Page for other pieces of apparatus.

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Hand drawn two tank chemical cart


This twin tank chemical cart was built by the Waterous Pump Company of Saint Paul, Minnesota for a Wisconsin fire department.  It uses "Babcock" style tanks which are not rotated but which rely on a hammer like device to break a glass acid bottle to generate carbon dioxide gas.  The idea of two tanks is solid, but the cart would have weighed well over 600 pounds when both tanks were full and would have presented a challenge to pull to a fire.

Fire Extinguisher Mfg. Co.
Horse Drawn Aerial Truck.  American. 1890. Ex - Benton Harbor, MI and Alpena, MI



The increasing heights of American buildings led to a  flurry of patent ground ladders and vehicles like this with mechanically powered ladders.  The first successful "aerial", as it was called, appeared in 1882 in San Francisco.   

This aerial was patented by the Chicago Fire Extinguisher Company in 1886.  Probably built for the Chicago Fire Department,  it was sold in 1894 to the fire department of Benton Harbor,  Michigan.  Eleven Benton Harbor firemen had died a few months before because of inadequate ladders.  The aerial, a large piece of apparatus for such a small town, was probably a reaction to this disaster.  In 1927 Benton Harbor  sold the truck to Alpena, Michigan.  There it was crudely converted to be pulled by a truck.  Don Hale fabricated new wheels, a new front end, axles, and many other pieces to restore the rig to its original appearance.  Although they were produced in large numbers, No other Babcock aerials have survived.

Manual "Escape" portable ladder.  Ex London Fire Brigade

Bayleys Escape Ladder.  English. Ca. 1930.  "Escapes" like this were common in Great Britain and the British Commonwealth until about 1970.  This one was mounted on a truck like that shown in the model.  At the fire the escape was detached from the truck, rolled into position, and extended for up to 55 feet.  Escapes first appeared in London during the 1820s.  A private charitable organization purchased the ladders and hired an operator to set it up on a London street and sit in an adjacent shed until a fire was discovered.  At this point he would get the escape into action, securing the help of nearby pedestrians.  At daylight he would move the escape to a factory or church yard for storage until evening.  When English paid fire brigades came into existence in the 1860s they incorporated the escapes into their departments.  With motorized trucks the English mounted the escapes in the manner shown in this model. This escape was used by the London Fire Brigade until about 1950.  Four men could handle an escape with ease.  A comparably sized American “Bangor” extension ladder required a crew of six.  

The model of a 1920 Dennis Pump/Escape shown below illustrates how the escape was carried.




Hand  drawn Ladder Wagon.  American.  Ca. 1907.   


In 1907 the town of Selby, South Dakota,  (population 250), organized a volunteer fire department of 45 men and equipped it with a hand pumped engine of unknown manufacture, a hose cart, and this hand drawn village ladder wagon.  It was probably built by the Peter Pirsch Fire Apparatus Company of Kenosha, Wisconsin.

It was in service until well into the 1930s.  Its steel construction makes it a very sturdy piece of apparatus.  It was equipped with a variety of ladders and a pair of kerosene lanterns.  Builders like Peter Pirsch built similar ladder wagons until well into the 1920s.  A ladder wagon was usually the first piece of apparatus to be purchased by a town, because it could serve as a stand-alone piece to carry ladders, buckets, and a few small firefighting tools.   

Hand drawn  chemical Cart Ex - Centerville, WI

The Peter Pirsch Fire Apparatus Company of Kenosha, Wisconsin built this single tank "Champion" style chemical cart for the Volunteer Fire Department of Centerville, Wisconsin around 1910.  It could hold about forty gallons of water mixed with eight to ten pounds of sodium bicarbonate.  Cradled inside the tank was a lead bottle with a lead stopper that contained about a quart of sulfuric acid.  At the fire the tank was rotated on its long axis so that it was upside down.  This allowed the stopper to fall out of the lead bottle, causing the acid to mix with the soda/water.  The result was carbon dioxide gas at a pressure of about one hundred pounds per square inch, which ejected water through a 3/4 inch rubber hose and a small diameter nozzle onto the fire.  It resembled nothing more than a giant seltzer bottle in action.  Chemical carts were very effective and were commonly used by small fire departments and industrial brigades.  Their major disadvantage was the time that was required to refill and re-charge the tank.  This cart has a container for a second charge of soda and acid, as well as lanterns, an ax and other tools.  The rope reels allowed it to be pulled by a crew of men, while one or two other men steered the tow bar.  The cart was restored by Henry Crost.


Preston Horse Drawn Ladder Wagon.  American. Ca. 1900.  


Plainfield, Wisconsin purchased this horse drawn ladder wagon around 1900 from the E. B. Preston Company of Chicago, a builder of light duty fire apparatus.    It is a rather small ladder wagon to be horse drawn.  The rig was purchased by  George F. Getz, Jr. in 1974 and donated to the Hall of Flame in 1987.  It was restored by Don Hale.  

Horse drawn Exercise Cart

This exercise cart was used by a Michigan fire department to exercise its horses between runs.  It was drawn by two horses.

1890 U.S. Anderson Coupling Co. Horse Drawn Hose Wagon



The Volunteer Fire Department of Phoenix, Arizona purchased this hose wagon around 1890 to provide hose for its Ahrens steam fire engine.  It was donated to the State of Arizona around 1950 and stored at a state museum in Jerome, Arizona.  It is on long term loan to the Hall of Flame from the State of Arizona.


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