Exploring the Galleries
The Hall of Flame
Within Gallery I is a 50-seat theater where visitors can view a 10 minute video introducing all of the exhibit galleries.
In addition, Gallery I contains over 30 manual and horse drawn pieces of apparatus, dating from 1725 to 1890. They are American, English, French, and Japanese.
There are a wide variety of engines, ladder wagons, parade carriages, hose wagons, chemical wagons, a fire sled or “pung”, an aerial ladder wagon, and steam powered engines.
Also on exhibit are lithographs, engravings, prints, and paintings. There is a fine display of over 100 insurance fire marks from all over the world.
Gallery I Exhibit Guide:
1. Newsham 4th Size Hand Pumper. English. Ca. 1730. Richard Newsham built pumpers of this modest size for use by small volunteer and parish brigades. Commonly supplied with water by bucket brigades, it could pump about 20 gallons per minute, the output of a pair of garden hoses. This engine was used in an English city, but Newshams were common in most colonial towns. In 1737 New York City purchased a Newsham of identical size as its first fire engine.
2. Newsham 6th Size Estate Engine. English. Ca. 1750. The engine belonged to the fire brigade of Lord Leconfield at his residence, Petworth House, in Sussex. It is the smallest of Newsham’s engines, two of which are on exhibit in this gallery. It was designed for use in an estate, factory or ship. It’s too small for an insurance fire brigade. Its compact design allowed fire-men to lift it from its chassis and carry it to the seat of a fire. It’s light enough to be carried up a ship’s mast to allow water to be played onto a sail, allowing the sail to capture more wind. It could also serve as a handy pump for quick attack on a ship or house fire. Built around 1750, the engine discharged water through a copper spout or short lengths of stitched leather hose. It was supplied by a bucket brigade or a suction hose. Output was about 25 gallons per minute.
3. Simpson Manual Engine. English. Ca. 1820. The exposed construction of this engine shows how almost all manual fire engines work. Pistons in each of the pump’s two cylinders suck water in on the pump handle’s up stroke and push it out on the down stroke. Thus water is both drafted and pumped on each stroke of the pump handles. A pair of valves mounted between the air chamber and cylinders controls the flow of water in and out of the cylinders. Valves were made of leather and needed frequent replacement. The easily accessed valve compartment on this engine was much better than valve arrangements on most other engines. The bulbous air chamber cushions the flow of water on its way to the hose, allowing it to flow in a steady stream. Water comes into the engine either from a suction hose attached to its rear fitting or from buckets of water dumped into the tub. While being re-stored, the maker’s name, Simpson, and his address, Belgrave Road, in the Pimlico District of London, was found under four layers of paint and primer. The engine probably spent its working life in London.
4. American Hydraulic Company4. American Hydraulic Company“Coffee Grinder” Rotary Pumper. Ca. 1825. John Cooper of Guilford, Vermont built dozens of these rotary vane pump engines between 1825 and 1835. They were used in New England and the Middle Atlantic states. Cranked by 8 to 10 men, the pump could supply a large volume of water at low pressure. At high pressures(using a hose nozzle with a small orifice) the cranks became very difficult to turn. This shortcoming reduced the demand for rotaries, despite their simplicity. This engine was probably used by a volunteer company in New York or Pennsylvania.
5. Japanese Fire Fighting Equipment. Ca. 1800 – 1870. The large engine was once used at the estate of a wealthy rice dealer in Kameoka, near the city of Kyoto. It was designed to go into action very close to a fire. Supplied with water from buckets, the engine’s two piston pumps moved the water through a bamboo spout that is missing from this piece. The other equipment was also used in the neighborhood of Kyoto. Japan began its modern history in the 1860s when it began trading with European nations and the United States. The Japanese rapidly adapted western technology. By the 1890s their fire engines were as good as those used in any nation.
6. Merryweather Hand Drawn Estate Pumper. English. 1838. This engine was built by the prominent firm of Merry-weather for the Earl of Harrington’s estate in Derbyshire. The Earl’s coat of arms and motto “For God and King” are on the end piece. Most English estates had their own brigades, which also fought village fires.6. Merryweather Hand Drawn Estate Pumper. English. 1838. This engine was built by the prominent firm of Merry-weather for the Earl of Harrington’s estate in Derbyshire. The Earl’s coat of arms and motto “For God and King” are on the end piece. Most English estates had their own brigades, which also fought village fires.
7. Merryweather Barrow Pump. English. Ca 1880. Merryweather built this pump for use at an estate or factory. Two men could easily move it to a fire and get it into action, although a crew of four worked best. During the 1920s Merryweather mounted the pump on a motorcycle side car for use by Industrial Brigades.
8. Howard and Davis Hand Drawn Pumper. American. 1852. Howard and Davis was a Boston clock making firm which manufactured a few fire engines. It built this one for the Massachusetts mill town of Grafton, which named the engine for the town’s power source, the Black-stone River. The resemblance to the Hunneman style engine is marked (See Number 14 in this exhibit). The engine was fully restored by Don Hale here at the Hall of Flame. Like most American apparatus, the engine was equipped to be pulled to fires by its crew. American volunteers made every effort to avoid the use of horses be-cause of the expense of upkeep and train-ing. Not until the introduction of heavy apparatus after the Civil War did horses come into wide use by volunteer departments. The paid departments of large cities, which appeared in the years between 1850 and 1880, used horses from their first days because paid departments lacked the manpower to pull rigs to fires.
9. Sohy et Durey Hand Drawn Engine. French. Ca 1840. This Dutch style was popular in continental Europe as late as 1910. It can be carried from its chassis into a building. The wicker baskets filter the pump from debris in the water from a bucket brigade. It was used by a village near Orleans called Ivoy Le Pré. It is al-most identical to the engines introduced by Jan Van der Heyden in Amsterdam in the 1670s. Its copper tub and two cylinder pump are similar to the design of the Howard and Davis engine in this exhibit (Number 8) and the Hunneman engine
(Number 14). Moving pictures dating from World War I show these engines be-ing used to fight fires in French towns. The engine’s large wheels had two ad-vantages. They made it extremely maneuverable when pulled by a couple of fire-fighters. They also allowed the engine to be connected to a horse drawn two wheel cart called a limber. Firemen could put hose in the limber and sit atop it to ride to a fire. The large wheels allowed it to be pulled at speed by horses, much like an artillery piece. Small wheels could not be pulled by horses without falling apart.
10. Newsham Manual Fire Engine. 1725. English. Richard Newsham built the English speaking world’s first successful fire engine in 1718. His engines were popular in such colonial towns as Philadelphia, New York and Williamsburg. This is one of his largest models. A crew of 20 men worked its handles and its foot treadles to pump about sixty gallons of water through its copper nozzle in a minute. The treadles allowed firemen to increase the force of pumping without making the pump handles any longer. This improved the engine’s maneuverability in narrow streets and reduced its tendency to rock. This engine spent its working life in northern England. Because of the poor quality of hose in 18th century England, the engine used a metal spout called a branch pipe to play water on fires.10. Newsham Manual Fire Engine. 1725. English. Richard Newsham built the English speaking world’s first successful fire engine in 1718. His engines were popular in such colonial towns as Philadelphia, New York and Williamsburg. This is one of his largest models. A crew of 20 men worked its handles and its foot treadles to pump about sixty gallons of water through its copper nozzle in a minute. The treadles allowed firemen to increase the force of pumping without making the pump handles any longer. This improved the engine’s maneuverability in narrow streets and reduced its tendency to rock. This engine spent its working life in northern England. Because of the poor quality of hose in 18th century England, the engine used a metal spout called a branch pipe to play water on fires.
11. Jeffers Philadelphia Style Pumper. American. 1844. The Philadelphia firm of Joel Bates built this engine in 1844 for the Rhode Island town of Pawtucket. Four years later Pawtucket fireman William Jeffers rebuilt it. Its design dates from about 1800 with the engines of a Philadelphia blacksmith named Pat Lyon. With two sets of pump handles manned by fifty firemen, it can pump over 250 gallons per minute. Used by the volunteers of Pawtucket until about 1870, it was retired and successfully used in “musters” of firefighters in pumping competitions with teams from towns all over New England. It was probably at this time that the engine was modified to be pulled by horses. Firemen rode on the horses, since the engine lacks a seat. The art on the rig’s “condenser box” is original. It portrays Rebecca, the wife of Isaac, at a well; St. Euphemia, a patron saint of firemen; the State Seal of Rhode Island, with
the state motto (“Hope”); and a New England sachem. William Jeffers’ success in rebuilding the engine led him to begin to manufacture his own line of pumpers, including manual and steam powered engines.
12. Rumsey Hand Drawn Pumper. American. Ca. 1865. This village pumper was used by the Badger Volunteer Fire Company of Centerville, Wisconsin. In 1871 the Company, with its little Rumsey, moved by train to Chicago to help fight the terrible fire that destroyed a third of that city. The “Badger” is called a “piano box” style engine because of the shape of its tank and pump housing.
13. Hunneman Hand Drawn Pumper and Hose Cart. American. 1866. Form follows function in this engine, which carries its suction hose “squirrel tail” style on a graceful crane neck frame. The pre-connected suction can be put to immediate use, and the front wheels can turn at right angles to increase mobility. The elegant curved design of the pump lever allows firemen to work the pump handles closer to the ground. The attached hose cart, called a “jumper,” provides several hundred feet of hose. Capacity is about 130 gallons per minute. The “Pacific,” and an identical Hunneman called the “Atlantic,” were purchased in 1866 and used by the nearby towns of Rockport and
Camden, Maine. Since Rockport was four miles west of Camden, its engine was named the “Pacific.” The motto “Be Early and Cool” is still used by the Rockport Volunteers.
14. Howe Hand Drawn Pumper. American. Ca. 1900. Benjamin Howe’s first engine was a novel horse drawn unit that sold poorly despite its superior design (Number 26 in this exhibit). Undaunted by the limited success of his rotary sweep pumper , Howe introduced this more conventional engine around 1890. It was a great success and remained in production until about 1915. Although not as stylish as other hand pumpers, it offered a lot of practical advantages. Its double acting pump could deliver up to 100 gallons of water per minute. Its 50 gallon water tank allowed firemen to get water on a fire at once, while others connected its suction hose to a water source. Yet the engine was still light enough to be pulled by hand. This pumper was used by the volunteers of Carrollton and Eldred, Illinois. It successfully fought a house fire in 1941.
15. Hand Drawn Village Ladder Wagon. American. Ca. 1870. Edgerton, Wisconsin purchased this small ladder wagon in 1886 for its volunteer fire department. It was purchased “used” from an unknown town. From its design and construction, it dates from the period 1860—1880. Its maker is also unknown, but it was most likely built by the Rumsey Fire Apparatus Company of Seneca Falls, New York. It is small even by the standards of its day, made to be drawn by hand with room for a half dozen beam ladders ranging in size from 10 to 20 feet in length. This would allow the volunteers to reach the second floor of a burning structure. In addition to the ladders, the wagon carried buckets, helmets, and a variety of axes and pike poles. It was pulled to the fire by ropes that were wound onto its rope reels (not wound with rope in this exhibit). Two firefighters steered the rig by means of its tow bar (placed on the floor below the rig to save space). The rig also has several play pipes which would have been useful for the village fire engine. These pipes are far too large for a hand pumped fire engine, so the town must have had a steam
pumper. Very little iron went into the construction of the wagon’s frame. Consequently it is rather frail. It was recently extensively rebuilt and restored to its original condition by Don Hale here at the museum.
16. Rumsey Hand Drawn Pumper. American. Ca. 1880. The Michigan volunteers who bought this engine probably commissioned the maker to paint it. It’s a good example of the level of decoration that volunteers favored, and which carried over to the rigs of the professional fire service. This is the largest size pumper made by Rumsey, supplying two discharge hoses with up to 150 gallons of water per minute. To achieve this output, a company of about 30 men would have to work the pump handles at 60 strokes per minute. This pace couldn’t be maintained for longer than a few minutes. At a more practical 50 strokes per minute, output was 120 gpm. Firemen pulled the engine with ropes mounted on reels below the tow bar. Two firemen steered the tow bar. They stopped the rig by grabbing the pump handles.
17. Button Hand Drawn Pumper. American. 1855. The Button Manufacturing Company built this first size engine for the town of New London, Connecticut. A crew of fifty men pulled the rig to a fire and manned the pump’s brakes (this is an archaic term for pump handles, but the handles also served as brakes to stop the rig). It can pump about 200 gallons of water per minute.
18. Hunneman Hand Drawn Fire Engine. American. 1852. This engine shares the same design as Number 14 in this exhibit. It was built in 1852 for the New Hampshire town of Exeter. Like almost all Hunnmans it was highly decorated. The Hunneman Company maintained a staff of several artists and painters to decorate their engines. Most volunteer companies took delivery of their rigs with a simple primer coat of paint and contracted with a local carriage maker to decorate the engine. When we obtained this engine from a New England antique dealer the original paint and decoration had been removed, so restorer Don Hale relied on pictures of other Hunnemans to restore the engine.
19. Pirsch Horse Drawn City Service Ladder Wagon. American. 1908. City service ladder wagons were built to accommodate a wide range of ladders which matched the needs of the area in which the rig would respond. If a response area had four story buildings, then one of the ladders should be a fifty foot extension ladder; If it was a neighborhood of residences, only 35 foot extension ladders would be needed. In addition, the wagon contained a variety of smaller ladders for roof work, inside work, and work where access to only the second floor would be necessary. City service wagons also carried a variety of tools for making rescues or searching for hidden fire, portable extinguishers, and extra play pipes or other tools for which there was no room on an engine. This wagon was built by the Peter Pirsch Fire Apparatus Company of Kenosha, Wisconsin for the nearby city of West Allis. It was restored to its original condition here at the museum by Don Hale in the summer of 2000.
20. Gleason & Bailey Hand Drawn Parade Carriage. American. 1889. 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 (See the cart with No. 14 in this Gallery). Not to be deprived of their beautiful carriages, 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 Fishkillon Hudson, New York Volunteer Hose Company, bought it for display at parades, musters and fairs. Its New York City maker, Gleason & Bailey, also made an extensive variety of fire apparatus. It was restored by Don Hale.
The museum has over 130 wheeled pieces in the collection. There are over 10,000 smaller objects, all of which relate to the history of firefighting.
Hall of Flame has six exhibit galleries. Visitors receive an exhibits catalogue which describes the major exhibits. Each gallery is identified by a numbered plaque that corresponds to a description in the catalogue.
In this 10,000 square foot gallery are over 20 motorized pieces dating from 1897 to 1930. Most of the pieces are American.
Makers include American La France, Seagrave, Ahrens-Fox, Mack, Howe, Brockway, Merryweather, Christie, and Waterous.
Among the rarest pieces is an 1897 Champion water tower that was motorized with a Christie tractor, a Waterous gasoline powered pumper, a Brockway chemical car, and a pair of elegant American La France Type 400 senior fire engines dating from the mid 1930s.
Gallery II also houses the children’s play area, and a 1952 American La France Model 700 fire engine from Miami, Arizona which is available for boarding by visitors. The rig is fully functional, but we have removed the ladders and hose to make access easier for excited would be firefighters!
This 5,00 square foot gallery contains rotating exhibits of restored motorized pieces.
On permanent display are a 1951 Mack Model A fire engine, a 1955 American La France aerial truck, a 1955 Seagrave Quad Anniversary Model engine, and a 1967 ERF/HCB-Angus “pump/escape” fire engine from the Nottinghamshire Fire Brigade.
One Gamewell semi automatic system dates from 1925 and was used in Glendale, California. A second system was custom made by the Phoenix Fire Department in 1956 and was one of the earliest binary systems to make full use of telephone capabilities. The third system is a Protectowire operating system that demonstrates an effective alarm system using a specially constructed thermal cable.
Our new storage building allows us to move pieces from the exhibit to temporary storage and allows us to install temporary exhibits. Most of these new exhibits will be displayed in Gallery III.
This 5,000 square foot gallery contains three fine aerial trucks made by American La France, Seagrave and Pirsch, as well as a fully restored 1930 Ahrens-Fox Quad fire engine that is driven annually in the Fiesta Bowl Parade.
The Seagrave and Pirsch aerials are entirely original. Behind the Ahrens Fox is a fully restored 1935 Ford / Pirsch flathead V-8 fire engine from Slinger, Wisconsin.
Also on display in this gallery are over 4,000 arm patches from fire departments all over the world. A printout of the patch collection allows visitors to quickly locate patches from their city, state, or province.
Gallery IV also contains a large Fire Safety Learning Area consisting of a mini-theater, a two room Safety House, and a large practical application area.
Hall of Heroes
The National Firefighting Hall of Heroes is a 3,000 square foot gallery that addresses the human element of firefighting.
In this gallery visitors will find the names of thousands of American firefighters who have died in the line of duty. In addition, the names and citations for thousands of firefighters who have been recognized for acts of heroism are also found in this gallery.
The gallery also contains exhibits which describe the history of the volunteer and paid structural firefighters and wildland firefighters.
A special display honors the firefighters, police officers and Port Authority officers who lost their lives on September 11, 2001 at the World Trade Center.
For specific information on the museum’s major holdings, select a category below.
Fire Alarm Systems
Hand and Horse Drawn
Additional Fire Related Objects in Our Collection
Hall of Flame’s collection of graphic materials includes lithographs, prints, engravings, arm patches, paintings, and photographs.