Hall of Flame

Museum of Firefighting

 

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Hand & Horse Drawn Apparatus

 

The listing below contains information on nine 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.

Page 8

 

Year
Nation
Maker
Description

Picture

1880
U.S.
Rumsey
Hand drawn village ladder wagon. Ex - Edgerton, WI

 

 

In 1965 we acquired a pair of fine pieces of fire apparatus from the town of Edgerton, Wisconsin.  The first was a 1922 American La France Type 75 fire engine.  Don Hale restored this piece in 1990.  The second acquisition from Edgerton was a hand drawn village ladder wagon which the town had purchased second hand in 1887.  Town records did not disclose the name of the original owner, but did list the rig as having been built in 1880.  There was no maker's name on the rig, but it is very similar in style to Rumsey ladder wagons of the day.  Rumsey, a Seneca Falls, New York maker, was one of the leading manufacturers of hand drawn fire apparatus in the late 19th century.  As with the 1908 Pirsch ladder wagon , Mr. Getz commissioned a refurbishment of the wagon which left a lot of room for improvement.  The wagon's running gear is made almost entirely of wood supported by strips of wrought iron.  The wheels had a lot of wood rot.  The ladder rack, too, had been clumsily modified sometime during its life.  There was a distinct possibility that the suspension might fail and break one or more axles. 

In the Fall of 2001 we rolled the wagon into Don Hale's shop for a complete restoration.  Don reinforced the suspension, rebuilt all of the wheels, and re-fashioned the ladder rack to its original configuration.  He then took the paint down to bare wood.  Unfortunately the rig had been stripped to bare wood at an earlier time, so we had no idea as to the original paint color or decoration.  We used illustrations from Rumsey trade catalogues of the day.  We also equipped the wagon with a compliment of beam style ladders similar to those shown in trade catalogues.  Fortunately we had a compliment of original leather buckets and helmets and play pipes from the original rig.  In August 2002 we placed the rig back on permanent exhibit in Gallery 1.  

 

1908
U.S.
Pirsch
Horse drawn city service ladder wagon. Ex - West Allis, WI

 

 

George F. Getz, Jr. founded the Hall of Flame in 1961.  He opened a small exhibit in his home town of Lake Geneva, Wisconsin in 1964.  In 1967 he moved the Hall of Flame to Kenosha, Wisconsin.  While in Kenosha he received a nice addition to the collection -- a city service ladder wagon once used in West Allis, Wisconsin.  It was built by the Peter Pirsch Fire Apparatus Company in 1908. During the 1920s West Allis motorized its equipment and donated the ladder wagon to the Wisconsin State Fair, which displayed it on its fairground.  The rig was not well maintained, and fell into disrepair.  Sometime in the 1950s the President of Peter Pirsch,  William Pirsch, purchased the old wagon and stored it on his company's grounds with the intention of restoring it for advertising purposes.  After meeting Mr. Getz, he decided to donate it, unrestored, to the Hall of Flame.  Mr. Getz had the rig refurbished by a local craftsman and placed on display, but it was a far cry from its original appearance.  The Hall of Flame moved to Arizona during the 1970s.  When its Phoenix exhibit building opened in 1974, the West Allis wagon went on display.  Over the next twenty years the Hall's restorer, Don Hale, brought dozens of wheeled pieces back to their original appearance, but never got around to the ladder wagon.  It suffered by comparison to the newly restored pieces, and finally went into storage because it no longer met the Hall's standards for exhibit quality.  

In 2000 Don finally had the time to do a restoration.  After several months of work, it went back on exhibit in Gallery One.  Don removed all paint and primer and then filled and sanded the rough metal frame.  Using a Pirsch delivery photo of an identical model ladder wagon that went to Waukegan, Illinois, Don painted , striped and gold leafed the wagon.  He had to rebuild all four wheels, which had rotted badly on the Wisconsin Fair Grounds.  The rig received a compliment of ladders which William Pirsch donated to the museum in the 1960s.  Don fabricated a new driver's compartment and installed a foot gong.  It was also equipped with lanterns and forcible entry tools appropriate to the era.  

 

1870
U.S.
Buckley & Merritt
Buckley & Merritt Hand Drawn Parade Carriage.  American.  1870. Ex - Derby, CT

 

 

Although patterned after a working hose carriage, this piece has no purpose beyond its elegance and beauty.  It was built as a source of pride for the firemen of the Hotchkiss Hose Company of Derby, Connecticut. Pulled by a team of firemen at parades and musters, the beautiful carriage boosted morale and promoted the image of its volunteer company. 

 

1889
U.S.
Gleason & Bailey
Gleason & Bailey Hand Drawn Parade Carriage.  American.  1889. Hand drawn. Ex - Fishkill on Hudson, NY (Now Beaconsfield, NY).

For many years after its invention in 1807, riveted leather hose was an expensive part of a fire department's inventory.  Only the wealthiest volunteers could afford to organize hose companies, and they commissioned fire apparatus builders to make elaborate carriages to carry the hose. 

By 1870 inexpensive cotton and canvas hose was replacing the leather variety, and practical but plain hose carts were the norm.  Not to be deprived of their beautiful carriages, a number of hose companies ordered even more highly decorated and extremely expensive versions of the old carriages, intended only for use in parades or at  ceremonial occasions.  Many modern departments follow this tradition by carefully restoring their old fire engines for display in parades.

This is a great example of such a parade carriage.  The woolen hat manufacturer Lewis Tompkins,  patron of the Fishkill on  Hudson, New York Volunteer Hose Company, bought it for display at parades, musters and fairs.  The New York City based maker, Gleason & Bailey, also made a popular line of practical fire apparatus. The carriage was restored by Don Hale. 

 

1870 U.S. W. W. Wunder

W.W. Wunder Hose Carriage.  American. Ca. 1865.   

 

 

 

The intense competition between hose companies in a city fire department led them to commission rigs like this, an attractive but functional carriage with a reel capable of carrying between 300 and 500 feet of 2 ˝ inch hose.  It was sturdy enough to do the job, but lavishly decorated with nickel plating and mirror siding for the hose reel and tool bins.  The builder was the W.W. Wunder Company of Reading, Pennsylvania, for the Active Hose Company of Philadelphia.  Retired volunteers probably pulled it in parades for years after 1870 when  the department became paid and equipped all of its hose companies with homely but practical horse drawn carts with cotton jacketed hose.  The carriage went into the H. V. Smith collection at the Home Fire Insurance Company.  When that collection was disbanded it went to the FASNY Museum, operated by the Volunteer Fire Departments of New York State.  In 2007 the Museum sold the carriage to the Hall of Flame.  The rig was restored by Don Hale in 2008 and  2009.

 

1880 U.S. Rumsey Rumsey Hand Drawn Pumper.  American. Ca. 1880.  

 

The volunteers of Rockland and Friendship, Maine used this Rumsey  for over 30 years. Its compact design, complete with pump, suction and discharge hose made it a good choice for volunteers.  Pumping capacity is 40 gallons per minute.

 

1930 U.S. DuGas Dry Chem Chemical Cart

During the 1920s several new fire extinguishing agents began to compete with the simple water-acid units.  Among them was this dry chemical engine, using an inert aluminum compound propelled by a strong charge of nitrogen gas to smother a fire and deprive it of oxygen.  Dry chemical extinguishers dominate the present market, since they are effective on all classes of fire, can not freeze, and cause few environmental problems.  This portable unit was used by  the Lake Geneva, Wisconsin Yacht Club.

 

1930 U.S. American La France - Foamite Hand drawn 40 gallon portable foam fire engine

During the 1920s the Foamite Corporation developed an extinguishing agent using water, sodium bicarbonate, an aluminum compound, and a patented chemical that created a foam that worked well to extinguish petroleum fires by covering the burning materials and depriving them of oxygen.  Foamite merged with American la France in 1926.  The new company manufactured a wide line of portable foam extinguishers.  This cart was a popular part of this line. 

The cart has two concentric chambers.  One chamber contains a solution of water and sodium bicarbonate.  The other has a solution of water, aluminum sulphate and the special Foamite chemical.  At the fire the stopper of the inner chamber is lifted and the cart is tipped on its side.  The two chambers mix their contents, generating carbon dioxide gas—used to expel the foam—and a large quantity of foam.   

The cart contains 40 gallons of solution and generates 300 gallons of foam.  The foam is propelled from the 50 foot hose for about 50 feet, and provides about 3 minutes of foam. 

The cart was used by the Wisconsin Electric Power Company at its Milwaukee division from 1930 until 1967, when it was donated to the Hall of Flame.  Modern fire engines use a similar product called Class B foam because it is useful on Class B (petroleum) fires.

 

1900 U.S. Fire Extinguisher Mfg. Co. 30 gallon Hand Drawn Chemical Cart, ex. Yerkes Observatory

 

 

During the summer of 2003 Don Hale restored this chemical cart, once owned by the Yerkes Observatory, the observatory of the University of Chicago.  The cart was built by the Fire Extinguisher Manufacturing Company of Chicago. FEMCO was one one of the earliest makers of fire extinguishers.  Established in 1866, It was absorbed into the International Fire Company in 1900.  Four years later this company was itself absorbed by the American La France Fire Engine Company. 

The cart's tank has a capacity for thirty gallons of water mixed with sodium bicarbonate.  A stoppered lead bottle of sulfuric acid was suspended in a basket below the tank's fill port.  A basket atop the tank carried fifty to one hundred feet of 3/4 inch rubber hose, with a small diameter off/on nozzle.  At the fire the cart was upended on the axis of the axle, causing the stopper to fall out of the acid bottle.  The acid mixed with the soda-water solution and generated carbon dioxide gas, which propelled the water through the hose onto the fire. Flipping the tank also caused the hose to fall conveniently to the ground, ready for deployment. 

Carts of this type were used in factories and towns all over the United States.  Our cart dates from the period 1880-1900.

 

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