The Seagrave Fire Apparatus Company of Columbus, Ohio built this 750 gallon per minute pumper for the town of Downers Grove, Illinois.
Seagrave pioneered the centrifugal pump, now the standard for the world’s fire services. Centrifugals are high speed pumps, well matched to the speed of the internal combustion engine. Rotary and piston pumps used by other firms were well adapted to low speed steam engines but required large reduction gear boxes to work with gasoline engines.
Centrifugals had other advantages, including simplicity, ease of maintenance and resistance to damage from gritty water. Centrifugal pumps could also take advantage of the pressure available from a hydrant. Most hydrants supplied water at from 40 to 80 pounds per square inch. An engine with a centrifugal pump started operations with this pressurized water before even engaging the pump. Engines with rotary or piston pumps did not enjoy this advantage.
By 1940 all but a few American engines were built with centrifugal pumps.