Popular Science Monthly/Volume 47/August 1895/The Development of American Industries Since Columbus: Fire Fighting I
By JOHN G. MORSE.
DEVELOPMENT OF AMERICAN INDUSTRIES SINCE COLUMBUS. XIX.
A PECULIARITY common to all nations is the fact that not until the industries of peace and the armaments of war had been well developed was attention paid to procuring safeguards against conflagrations; and when it was at last realized that means for the extinguishing of fire were necessary, so little was attempted that the results were entirely inadequate. Even in the United States, noted the world over for advanced methods of fire-fighting, the marked improvements have been so long in coming that half the men alive to-day can remember the time when the most marked changes were made.
It is believed that the first hose used for the extinguishing of fire was made from the gut of an ox. This was attached to a bag filled with water, which, being pressed, would force out a jet. Charles F. T. Young, C. E., the author of Fires, Fire Engines, and Fire Brigades, considers it probable that some mechanical devices capable of squirting water existed in Nineveh, Tyre, Babylon, etc. Ctesibius, of Alexandria, who flourished in the second century b. c. during the time of Ptolemy, is said to have invented a fire engine. Philadelphus and Euergetes are also said to have worked in the same direction.
Certain it is that Hero in 150 b. c. invented and had made a fire engine that was provided with an air chamber, and therefore played a continuous stream. During the darkness of the middle ages fire engines seem to have been forgotten, and it is doubtful if syringes were kept in use. The Chronicles of Augsburg, 1518, speak of "water syringes useful at fires," and from that time onward mention is made of fire engines in Denmark, Germany, Holland, France, and Great Britain. From the work above referred to it is stated that Decaus, in his Forcible Movements, Fig. 1. Hero's Fire Engine, 150 b. c. (From Knight's Mechanical Dictionary, by permission of the publishers.) published in 1615, describes a German engine of that period in the following quaint language:
"A rare and necessary engin, by which you may give a greate reliefe to houses that are on fire. This engin is much practiced in Germany, and it hath been seen what great and ready help it may bring: for although the fire be 40 foot high, the said engin shall there cast its water by help of four or five men lifting up and putting down a long handle, in form of a lever, where the handle of the-pump is fastened. The said pump is easily understood: there are two suckers (valves) within it, one below to open when the handle is lifted up, and to shut when it is put down, and another to open to let out the water; and at the end of the said engin there is a man which holds the copper pipe, turning it to and again to the place where the fire shall be."
In 1632 there was a patent granted in England to one Thomas Grant for a fire engine. Caspar Schott, of Nuremberg, manufactured one in 1657 that, when worked by twenty-eight men, would play a stream eighty feet in length. In 1663 John Van der Hayden, of Amsterdam, patented another, and to him is given the credit of bringing the machine to the modern form of hand engine. Several other early engines are mentioned in different works on the subject; among them the "pompe portative," patented in France by Duperrier in 1699. To this Perrault added the air chamber.
Although many different engines had been invented, buckets and syringes were in use in England and on the Continent until far into the seventeenth century. The largest of the hand syringes were of brass, and held no more than a gallon. Two men were required with each, one to hold the syringe and the other to direct the stream. In the sixteenth century larger ones were made and placed on wheels. These were capable of holding about a barrel of water and had no hose. The direction of the stream, or, more properly speaking, of the series of squirts, could be changed up and down, as the syringe rested on pivots. To change the direction from side to side, the entire machine, wheels and all, had to be moved.
Barring the gut of an ox mentioned at the beginning of this article, hose was not known until 1672. Mr. C. B. Robinson, in an address before the National Association of Fire Engineers, states that fire hose was invented by John and Nicholas Van-der-Heide (spelled by some Heyden) in 1672. These brothers were the inspectors of fire apparatus in the city of Amsterdam, and were probably led to make the invention by their experience in these matters. The hose was made of leather, of sail cloth, or of seamless fabric, in fifty-foot lengths, and coupled together with brass screws. This contradicts the popular impression that canvas hose was an exclusively modern invention. Although the leather hose made at that time was very defective, being sewed like a boot leg, it soon supplanted the sail-cloth and woven hose that became worn out so quickly, and up to a very recent date leather has been the only substance used in making hose.
The early settlers in America paid no attention toward protecting themselves against fire, and the different colonies had grown into fair-sized communities with several industries well established before any steps were taken in that direction. About the earliest mention of a definite method of fire protection was made at Salem, Mass., in 1644, when each inhabitant was ordered to be supplied with a ladder under penalty of a fine of five shillings. These ladders were undoubtedly made in Salem or in the immediate vicinity, and one might rightly say that here began an American industry that is now carried on so extensively in many places and under a multitude of different forms. In 1648 four fire wardens were appointed in New York city. These men passed a law to fine every one whose chimney became foul or whose house was burned by his own carelessness. The money so obtained was to be used in the purchase of ladders, hooks, and buckets. These were not provided, however, until some years later.
Boston also took steps in this direction, and on the first day of the twelfth month of 1653, or, by the modern method of computation, on February 1, 1654, the following entry is found in the town records:
"The select men have power and liberty hereby to agree with Joseph Jynks for Ingins to Carry water in Case of fire, if they see Cause soe to doe." Mr. James R. Newhall, in his history of Lynn, Mass., gives the following facts about this maker of fire engines: Joseph Jenks, or Jynks, came from Hammersmith, England, to Lynn as an operative in the iron works. He soon made himself known to the community and to the country at large by his ingenious inventions. In regard to the order found in the town records of Boston, Mr. Newhall makes the following comment:
"This order, it will be observed, is permissive rather than imperative; and there has been a question whether they did contract for an engine, or, if they did, whether the contract was ever fulfilled, for it is asserted that Boston had no engine till after the great fire in November, 1676, at which time some forty-six dwellings were destroyed, besides shops, warehouses, and 'a meeting house of considerable bigness' An opportune rain is mentioned as having done much toward arresting the flames, and some buildings were blown up. But nothing is said about an engine being there. Pemberton seems to have thought that as late as 1711 Boston had no fire engine. Yet on the 9th of March, 1702, the town voted that the selectmen should 'procure two water engines suitable for the extinguishing of fire, either by sending for them to England, or otherwise to provide them' This must have been in addition to one before had, for it was on the same day voted that 'the Selectmen are desired to get the Water Engine for the quenching of fire repaired, as also the house for keeping the same in.' Now, might not the one referred to as needing repairs in 1702 have been manufactured by Mr. Jenks, on the order of 1654? It would have been an old 'machine' to be sure, but was, no doubt, constructed in a thorough manner, and not very frequently called into use."
Mr. Caleb H. Snow, in his history of Boston, published in 1828, doubts if the engine ordered in 1654 was ever made. He states, however, that in 1679 a fire engine is mentioned as having lately come from England. If this be true, there is a bare possibility that this is the engine referred to as needing repairs in 1702.
It seems extremely doubtful whether a fire engine was manufactured for Boston as early as 1654. The town was then but twenty-four years old, and what money was not used in keeping the wolf from the door was probably fully expended in the meager village improvements and in paying men to repel the continually obnoxious Indians. The inhabitants would hardly have cared to go to the expense of buying a doubtful invention for the extinguishment of the then rarely occurring fires. Nevertheless, Mr. Jenks, from what we know of his mechanical genius, was probably fully capable of making a successful fire engine, had any of the towns in the widely separated and struggling colonies cared to buy one. Had this engine been built, it would not only have been the first made in this country, but it would have been the first one used here, many English engines being introduced later. But, as will be seen later, without taking this engine into consideration, Boston holds priority in the ownership of a fire engine. Besides authorizing the purchase of an engine in this first order of 1054, it was ordered that every house be provided with a ladder and a twelve-foot pole to reach the ridge-pole. Six good and long ladders were to be furnished by the selectmen.
In 1657 New York had made some ladders and hooks. It was also decided to order two hundred and fifty leather buckets from Holland. Thinking it would take too long to have the order filled, it was decided to have one hundred and fifty buckets made in this country. Remout Remoutzen was ordered to make one hundred and Adrian Van Lair to make fifty. These were to cost six guilders two stuyners each (about two dollars and a half). The buckets were finished in 1659, and properly distributed.
Undoubtedly the first fire company organized in this country was formed in New York in 1058. It was called the Prowlers, and was composed of eight men with two hundred and fifty buckets, hooks, and small ladders. Where the buckets were obtained, and whether or not they were in addition to those owned by the town, the records fail to state. In 1679 Salem purchased two or three dozen cedar buckets, besides hooks and other implements; also, the selectmen and two others were authorized to take command at fires, and to blow up and pull down buildings when such action was necessary. This practice appears to have been much more common before the use of engines than afterward. Boston, on September 9, 1079, ordered that every quarter of the town should be provided with twenty swobes, two scoopes, and six axes. The swobes, or swabs as they are now called, were long-handled mops that could be used to put out roof fires. The general use of swabs has long since disappeared, but when a slight blaze is beyond the reach of a pail of water and more improved apparatus is not at hand, a long-handled mop is to-day the most efficient article to be used. In Japan these swabs may be seen on many roof tops.
In 1690 New York ordered that five ladders and also hooks be made. In Philadelphia no mention is made of public precaution against fire until 1690, when a law was passed forbidding the firing of chimneys or allowing the same to become foul. Each house was to have a swab, bucket, or pail. Another act was passed in 1700, ordering every household to have two leather buckets. In the following year six or eight hooks for the purpose of tearing down houses were ordered to be made.
As has been stated above, Boston bought two engines in England in 1702, and therefore, if the engines of 1754 and 1079 never existed, Boston was yet the first town to be the proud owner of a fire engine. Philadelphia came next, in 1018. On December 8th of that year the Council agreed with one Abraham Bickley for "his ffire Engine At ye sum of £50." This engine had been imported from London by the said Bickley.
With the exception of the buckets made in New York in 1657-'59 by Remout Reinoutzen and Adrian Van Lair, no mention is made of the makers of the different equipments provided. In 1729 Salem again took steps toward protection from fire by ordering buckets, hooks, poles and ladders to be kept in the Town
Fig. 2.—Early Fire Fighting. (From an old print.)
House, but the records fail to state where and by whom the buckets, etc., were made. It is most probable, however, that the ladders, hooks, poles, and swabs were made by artisans in the different towns, but many of the buckets were undoubtedly manufactured in Europe. Later records are more specific. In 1730, Philadelphia, besides buying some buckets in England, made a bargain with a townsman, Thomas Oldman, for one hundred leather buckets.
New York had no fire engine until 1731, when two were bought of Mr. Newsham, the celebrated London maker. These engines were box affairs, with small wheels and axles solidly set. They could not turn corners, but had to be lifted bodily around. The first engine of home manufacture was built in New York in I 737. In the New York Gazette, of May 9th of that year, the following advertisement appeared:
"A Fire-engine that will deliver two hogsheads of water in a minute, in a continual stream, is to be sold by William Lindsay, the maker thereof. Enquire at Fighting Cocks, next door to the Exchange Coffee-house, New York."
Whether or not this engine was successful is unknown, but it is tolerably certain that it was never used. Bartholomew Weldern also made two engines, neither of which would work. In the same year, however, Thomas Lote made an engine that was more successful. It was used in the New York department, and known as number three. Considering the length of time between 1654 and 1737, in which no mention is made of home-made engines, it seems still more doubtful if Mr. Jenks, of Lynn, did make the first machine in this country, and undoubtedly priority should be given to one of the several New-Yorkers just mentioned.
Benjamin Franklin states in his autobiography that his reading a paper on fire protection before a Philadelphia society gave rise to the forming of "a company for the ready extinguishing of fires, and mutual assistance in removing and securing of goods when in danger." Besides the usual buckets, each member carried a bag made of four yards of osnaburgs or wider linen, with a running cord at the neck. These bags were used in safely transporting valuables and small articles from burning buildings, and
Fig. 3.—Early Fire Fighting. (From a certificate issued to Seth Kneeland, New York Volunteer Fire Department, November 13, 1789.)
formed a primitive forerunner of the outfits of the protective patrols of to-day. Franklin was a member of the company thus started.
Jacob Turk, who became the head of the New York department in 1739, introduced the style of-leather hat that is worn by firemen at the present day. Despite the countless changes that have taken place in apparatus of all kinds, the fireman's hat remains practically unchanged, and serves, as it always has, for a distinguishing emblem to the profession.
Massachusetts passed a law in 1744 empowering all towns to choose fire wards. The wards were to have for a distinguishing badge of office a staff five feet long, painted red, and headed with a bright brass spire six inches in length. One of the first towns to take advantage of this law was Salem. At the same time a fire club was formed that purchased a fire engine in England in 1749 and another in 1751.
Baltimore first took precautions against fire in 1747, when the housekeepers were ordered to have ladders in readiness. The Annals of Providence tell us that measures in this direction were not taken until 1754, when a law was passed compelling each housekeeper to have two buckets. An engine was also purchased, although the records fail to state where it was manufactured. Another engine was bought in Boston in 1700, undoubtedly a second-hand English machine, as at that time there were no makers in Boston.
It will be noticed that, although engines had been made in this country, foreign machines were preferred, probably on account of
Fig. 4.—Early "Hand Tub." (From a Sketch and Reminiscences of the Providence Fire Department.)
their superior workmanship. The foreign makers, however, were soon to lose their precedence. Mr. A. W. Brayley, in his History of the Boston Fire Department, states that in 1765 David Wheeler, an ex-fireman of Boston Engine Company 8, manufactured the first complete fire engine ever made in that town. Wheeler was a blacksmith established on Washington Street, then called Newbury. He gave notice to the press that he would encourage home industry by making a fire engine. This he did, and on August 21st the same year he had a chance to try his production, which worked to the satisfaction of all present. In 1767 Wheeler asked permission to make another. This was granted, and the same year the importation of engines from abroad was prohibited. An industry was not only started but encouraged by law—one that has increased and spread in all parts of the country, embracing the manufacture of more improved apparatus at a later day, until now it is the greatest industry of its kind in the world.
Although begun in New York and Boston, the making of fire engines was soon established in Philadelphia, where for over a century it flourished to a greater extent than in any other city in the country. From the history of that city by Messrs. Scharf and Westcott, we learn that in 1768 Richard Mason, on Second Street, began the manufacture of fire engines. His quaint advertisement appears in a copy of the Massachusetts Centinel of Saturday, November 7, 1 789, published in Boston:
"Fire Engines made on the newest and most approved construction; warranted for seven years, and sold as cheap as they can be procured from Europe. The business is now extensively carried on in all its various branches, by the subscriber, in Union Street, Philadelphia; where Engines of any size may be had; and towns and fire companies supplied therewith on the shortest notice." After mentioning small engines for house, garden, and ship use, the advertisement goes on to state:
"He has several good second-hand engines for sale, at low rates:—and makes fire-buckets of the neatest and best sort, which he supplies, handsomely painted with any device required, at a short notice.
"The strictest attention paid to orders from any part of the continent, or elsewhere; and the utmost punctuality and dispatch may be relied on."
A list is given of the five sizes made, varying from one of eighty gallons, throwing water eighty feet and worked by six men, to one of one hundred and seventy-five gallons, throwing one hundred and seventy-five feet and worked by eighteen men. The prices varied from £40 to §120. The advertisement closes as follows:
"N. B.—The main body of water will not be thrown to the above distances, and a greater number of men may be applied to the large engines if occasions should require."
Mr. Mason was the first one to place the levers upon the ends instead of upon the sides of the engines, and thereafter they were spoken of as the Philadelphia levers.
The first ladder companies possessing trucks on which to carry their ladders and hooks were formed in New York in 1772, and were numbered one and two. There had been two trucks in the New York department previous to this, carrying no name or number. These were probably the first pieces of apparatus of this kind used in the United States, for a careful scrutiny of different records fails to show an earlier one.
In 1774 each engine in Salem—there were then three—was furnished with a framed canvas screen in three or four leaves, eight feet high. The canvas was kept wet by the use of long-handled swabs, and the screens are said to have been of great service in preventing the spread of fire. Screens of this kind were used in Salem and the adjoining towns until a very late day but they were evidently local in their character, for the records of the departments in other parts of the country do not mention anything of like nature.
At the close of the Revolutionary War in 1782 the manufacture of fire engines that had been established in Philadelphia took a decided start, and soon became such a distinctive feature among the industries of that town that it added greatly to its notoriety. Boston also for some time took a prominent part in this industry. In 1792 the firm of Hunneman & Company, manufacturers of hand fire engines, was established. This firm continued to make hand fire engines until the introduction of steamers threatened to ruin its business, and to save itself it embraced the manufacture of steam fire engines. After continuing to bear the name of Hunneman for almost a century it passed into different hands and the firm is still in existence. As far as can be ascertained, this is the oldest concern of the kind in this country and perhaps in the world.
When Hunneman & Company first established their works the New York authorities decided to make their own engines, and did so to some extent, but also continued to buy elsewhere, the records showing that one was purchased from Philadelphia in 1798. The Philadelphia engines traveled farther from home than to New York. In 1797 Salem, having bought several in England during the previous years, ordered one from a Philadelphia maker by the name of Samuel Briggs. The journey to Salem so injured the machine that it was useless on its arrival, and the maker had to send on an agent to superintend its repair.
The history of the Boston Fire Department states that in 1798 a Mr. Fenno, of that town, made some new hose for engine five. This seems to be the first mention of the making of fire hose in this country. Although the Boston authorities had prohibited the importation of foreign engines, they did not put the same restrictions upon hose. In the same year they purchased two hundred feet of hemp hose from Holland, giving as their reason for so doing that the English and American kinds were unsatisfactory.
The New York firemen saw at an early date the need of something more effectual than land engines with which to fight fires on the water front. Somewhere between 1805 and 1810 a large boat, rowed by twenty-four men, and provided with a fire engine, was put in service. It did good work, but in winter the hardships of the men were so great that few would serve, and the boat was abandoned. This was a forerunner of the fire boats with which so many of the larger cities are now provided.
Messrs. A. L. Pennock and James Sellers, of Philadelphia, in 1818 invented and manufactured the first leather copper-riveted hose used in this country. Burr and Shaw, of Providence, established a similar business a few years later.
Boston had no ladder truck until 1820. Having provided many new ladders and hooks, the authorities purchased a rather worn-out express wagon upon which the articles mentioned could be carried to fires more readily. A company was formed to man the same.
During the early part of the century the departments of the larger towns realized that the private pumps and wells did not form a sufficient water supply, and town pumps and cisterns were placed at convenient intervals about the streets. Instead of filling the engines by means of lines of bucket-passers, it was often possible to pump directly into the machine. This led to pumping direct from the stationary pumps into the fire hose when the pumps were in close proximity to the fire, and soon hose companies were formed. A famous company of this kind was formed in Providence. Equipped with a hose carriage and one thousand feet of hose, its members competed for honors with the finest engine companies. This was one of the first hose carriages used. The leading hose of the engines had always been carried on the machines, and this custom was generally continued. Mr. George W. Sheldon, in his history of the New York Volunteer Firemen, states that David J. Hubbs, foreman of one of the companies, introduced the first separate hose carriage in the New York department. It was a very simple device, a reel on the axle between two ordinary wheels. This was known as "Hubbs's Baby." It was either tied behind the engine or pulled by two of the members of the company.
Up to the year 1820 the fire apparatus in use had improved but little. The larger towns only were provided with engines, and, as has been stated, these were box affairs that were filled by lines of bucket-passers or by stationary pumps. The brakes and pumps, it is true, had been greatly improved, and, indeed, besides the piston-pump engines worked by brakes there was a rotary pump in use, driven by a crank and geared to greater speed by cog wheels, but the engines were limited in their usefulness by the unsatisfactory method employed in supplying them with water. Somewhere between 1819 and 1822, although the exact date is in question, a new era was begun in the method of fighting fire.
The Hon. Elisha Dyer, in a paper devoted to the Providence Fire Department, states that the first successful suction engine made in the United States was manufactured by Sellers & Pennock, of Philadelphia, in 1822, for the town of Providence. It was named Hydraulion No. 1. At about this date all the engines of the New York department were provided with suctions. Probably
Fig. 5.—First Suction Hand Engine. (From a Sketch and Reminiscences of the Providence Fire Department.)
at that time many of the old engines, in different parts of the country, were changed to suction engines, while the first new one built was Hydraulion No. 1, of Providence. With the introduction of suctions the general efficiency of the engines was greatly increased. Every pond, brook, and bucketless well was at the service of the firemen, and a new impetus was given to the manufacture of fire apparatus.
In 1834, Button & Company, of Waterford, New York, entered the field. They continued building hand engines until the introduction of steam, when they followed the example of Hunneman & Company, of Boston, and began the building of steam engines. Their successors lately consolidated with the American Fire Engine Company, who, as the successors of Hunneman & Company have discontinued the manufacture of fire engines, now form the oldest house of the kind in the country. The Button hand engines are still placed upon the market for the use of small country departments.
In 1848, William Jeffers, of Pawtucket, Rhode Island, in connection with two or three other mechanics, altered over the pumps of a hand engine. He met with such good success that he began the manufacture of hand engines, and in 1861 added the making of steam fire engines to his business. Crockett, E. B. Juckett, Henry Waterman, Pake & Kells, John R. Adams, John Agnew, and several others were well-known names connected with the building of hand fire engines, but it is difficult to obtain the dates at which they entered the field. Many of them made steam engines at a later date.
It is hard to realize that at the end of the first half of the nineteenth century the fire departments of this country were still far behind the times both in organization and in apparatus. Stearn railroads were pushing out in every direction, steam vessels were crossing the ocean, steam power was being used in countless mills, the electric telegraph had been invented, the equipments of the army and navy were being continually improved, and machinery was taking the place of hand work in every kind of manufactory. The firemen, on the other hand, were using manual engines drawn by hand, small and inadequate ladder trucks and hose reels, also dragged to fires by the firemen themselves. Their apparatus was removed but a few steps
Fig. 6.—Ericsson's Engine. (From Scribner's Magazine, by permission of the publishers.)
from the old squirting syringes. The men were brave, but did their work of their own free will. After the city government had paid for the engines the firemen assumed all other expenses. It is not the purpose of this article to discuss the organization of the volunteer fire departments, but simply to show how handicapped they were by apparatus that was out of date, and entirely unfit to cope with the fires that were sure to occur in the inflammable and rapidly growing cities.
The year 1840 marks the beginning of a great era in the development of fire apparatus, although the stupidity of the general public prevented the adoption of the improved methods for several years later. Stationary steam pumps had been used in mills for some years previous to 1842, but up to that time a portable steam fire engine was a thing unknown in this country. In 1830 Captain Ericsson, then of London, but later famed as the builder of the Monitor, designed a steam fire engine, and the firm of Braithwaite & Ericsson built one machine and operated it in London entirely at their own expense in the hopes that more might be introduced. They met with so much opposition, however, not only from the press but forcible interference from the firemen, that they abandoned the attempt. The Prussian Government in 1832 ordered a steam fire engine built that threw a single stream one inch and a half in diameter.
Fig. 7.—First Steam Fire Engine in the United States, 1840.
After his failure in London Captain Ericsson thought he would try again with the more progressive Americans, but he was doomed to disappointment. Designs that he made for an engine were awarded a prize by the American Institute in 1840, but no machine was built. The first steam fire engine ever built or used in the United States was one made by Mr. Paul R. Hodge for the Matteawan Insurance Company, of New York. The engine was a self-propeller, and when working at a fire was blocked up so that its hind wheels might be used as balance wheels. When housed it was connected with boilers, and fuel was always laid that steam might be got up quickly. This engine was operated at the expense of the insurance company, but continually met with opposition from the volunteer firemen. Finally, when playing at a fire in Dover Street, the machine did such excellent work that the firemen utterly refused to allow it to be used thereafter, and it was stored away, and New York's fire protection was limited again to the old hand tubs.
Such a marked improvement as a steam fire engine, however, could not long remain unadopted by the progressive people of this country, even though their protectors, the volunteer firemen, insisted that hand power was the only means that should be used. In 1852 Messrs. Latta & Shawk, of Cincinnati, placed a steam boiler and cylinder in connection with the pumps of a hand engine belonging to the Cincinnati department and mounted the whole contrivance on wheels and frame. A public trial was made of this crude affair, and it worked very successfully. In the short time of four minutes and ten seconds steam was raised from cold water, the engine started, and water discharged through three hundred and fifty feet of hose to a distance of one hundred and thirty feet from the nozzle. Although this exhibition was naturally looked upon with dislike by the volunteer firemen, the city government was greatly pleased and immediately contracted with the makers for a complete steam fire engine. This was built and put in service with a company organized and supported by the city. Thus the first paid fire company in the world to operate by steam power was brought into existence.
The volunteers made great opposition to the change in affairs, but the chief engineer of the paid department, Miles Greenwood, was so energetic and persevering that with the help of other level-headed men the opposition was overcome and the trouble adjusted. To Mr. Greenwood is due much of the credit for introducing the steam fire engine into this country. The firm of Latta & Shawk passed into different hands, until controlled by the celebrated Ahrens Manufacturing Company, which in turn has been absorbed by the American Fire Engine Company.
The fame of the Cincinnati engines spread, and other cities endeavored to introduce the system, always meeting with the most violent opposition from the volunteers. The press, however, advocated the change, and called for its universal introduction. A Boston gentleman, having visited Cincinnati, wrote in the Boston Transcript of August 7, 1857, that he was amazed at the efficiency of the Cincinnati department, and believed it had demonstrated the impossibility of extensive conflagrations. He was disgusted to return to Boston and find men and boys dragging hand tubs to fires, after having discarded a steam fire engine without giving it a fair trial. But the steam fire engine was bound to come. Chicago and other western cities closely followed Cincinnati by organizing paid departments equipped with steam engines. The more intelligent volunteers in the east began to see the error of their ways, and replaced their hand engines with the more modern apparatus. Boston was the first of the eastern cities to organize a paid department, which she did in 1860. New York did the same in 1865, and Philadelphia in 1871. Other eastern cities rapidly fell into line, but some of the southern cities, though equipped with the most modern apparatus, continue to the present day with volunteer firemen, New Orleans having only recently adopted a paid force.
When the success of the steam fire engine became an established fact the demand increased rapidly. Not only did many of the hand-engine builders begin their manufacture, but almost all the locomotive works and many machine shops did the same. Also many new firms sprang up. In almost every eastern and in many western States men went into the business, while in some cases the volunteer companies, notably one in Pittsburg, had the steamers built under their own supervision at the shop of one of the members. Philadelphia kept up her long-standing reputation by soon having ten or more competitive firms engaged in the work. Some of these numerous makers built but one engine, some of them only a few, while others continued in the business for several years.
The Portland Company Locomotive Works, of Portland, Me., made steam fire engines from 1859 until 1870. At the time their engines had the most powerful suctions of any in the market, and one of them, that is still on duty in Bangor, ably keeps up its reputation in this respect. The work was discontinued because the complicated nature of the machinery rendered it impossible to set a competitive price. In 1858 Thomas Scott and N. S. Bean, of Lawrence, Mass., made an engine for the Boston department. The business thus established was absorbed by the Amoskeag Manufacturing Company, of Manchester, N. H., and their engines are now built by the Manchester Locomotive Works.
Silsby, Mynderse & Company, of Seneca Falls, and Clapp & Jones, of Hudson, N. Y., were extensive builders, and their successors have combined with the successors of the Button Company and the Ahrens into the American Fire Engine Company. The multitude of firms in the eastern and a few in the western States that went into the business are too numerous to mention, and most of them soon discontinued the making of engines. The Philadelphia firms one by one dropped out, and that city's reputation in this line is a thing of the past. Ettenger & Edmund, of Richmond, made in 1860 an engine for St. Petersburg, Russia. This was one of the first American engines sent abroad.
These early machines were of all models and sizes, either large and cumbersome self-propellers or small and light to be drawn by men. Engines drawn by horses were not generally introduced until some years later. The different makers evidently made experiments to find the most satisfactory arrangement of the machinery. Some had the boiler at the extreme back, and the pumps and air chamber in the middle; in others the air chamber was far in front, while one builder put the air chamber and pumps behind, with the boiler in the center. Occasionally the self-propellers were three-wheeled affairs, while others on four wheels carried such an amount of chain and gears that they could hardly move their own ponderous weight. A comparison of pictures of the early machines would, to the most careless observer, show a marked difference in form, while the engines of the present day are nearly alike in general appearance.
The La France Fire Engine Company, Elmira, N. Y., and the Waterous Engine Works Company of St. Paul, have made engines but a comparatively few years, and with the Manchester Locomotive Works and the American Fire Engine Company are the only firms in the business to-day. Some few cities, notably
Fig. 8.—Steam Fire Engine of To-day.
Cleveland, encourage home industry by occasionally having engines built by local machinists.
It is not within the scope of this article to go into a technical description of the boilers, engines, and pumps used in the different styles of steamers made to-day. Each maker has endeavored to provide a boiler so arranged that steam can be generated in the shortest possible time. The engines must be light and capable of being worked in positions often far from level. The pumps must be powerful both in suction and in being able to throw streams to great distances. At the same time they must be as simple as possible and not easily clogged, for often the only available water is in some muddy pool or pond filled with foreign matter. When it is remembered that fire engines are often bought by village departments where there is no one of mechanical ability to care for them, it will be evident that every part of the machine must be of a quality and construction that will stand misuse and abuse.The Amoskeag, Ahrens, Clapp & Jones, Button, and
Fig. 9.—Self Propelled Steam Engine.
Waterous engines have piston pumps; the Silsby engines have rotary pumps, and the La France Engine Company manufactures two distinct styles of engines—one with a piston pump and one with a rotary. The piston pump needs no description here, but it will be well to say a few words in regard to the rotary pump. The engine in this case is composed of two cams, which to the uninitiated are irregular cog-wheels with alternating large and small cogs, working in a steam-tight case. The steam entering from one direction forces these cams to revolve with great rapidity. The pump is composed of cams somewhat similar, which are connected with the engine cams, and when revolving suck the water and force it through the discharge pipe with great pressure. The capacities of steam fire engines differ from three hundred gallons per minute in the smallest sizes up to twelve and thirteen hundred gallons per minute in the largest.
Self-propellers are very little used at the present day. Boston, Providence, Hartford, New York, Brooklyn, Detroit, Chicago, Milwaukee, and other cities, have all tried them, but they have been very generally discarded for engines drawn by horses. Hartford is a notable exception to the list, there being two self-propellers in her department. The latest of these is an Amoskeag engine by the name of Jumbo, and has a capacity of thirteen hundred and fifty gallons per minute. This is probably the largest land fire engine in the world. The city departments are always furnished with the larger sizes of engines drawn by horses, but in many towns engines of lighter draft, that can be drawn by men, are often used. Crane-neck and straight frames are both used, but the former are more common. The American Fire Engine Company make a combination engine and hose wagon called the Columbian engine. The wagon part is forward, and the engine and boiler are over the rear wheels. This is very convenient in suburban departments, as it reduces the number of pieces of apparatus. The fire-engine makers of the United States supply the home market exclusively, and a number of machines have been sent to Canada and to foreign countries.
The most powerful allies of the land engines are fire boats, that are now used by all large cities bordering on the water. The capacity of a fire boat is often equal to that of ten to twenty land engines, and is limited only by the size of a boat that can be worked quickly and easily among the crowded shipping of a harbor. As has been seen, New York had a floating hand fire engine in use during the early part of this century, but it was not in service for any length of time. After steam vessels came into general use, harbor tugs were often provided with fire pumps, that they might aid in extinguishing fires on the water fronts. The first boat built expressly for fighting fire was launched in 1872, from the Atlantic Works, East Boston, for the Boston Fire Department. Her pumps were of the Amoskeag pattern. This boat has since been replaced by one more powerful. The next fire boat was the Havemeyer, built in New York in 1875, and followed in 1883 by the Zophar Mills for the same department. These boats are still in service.
The first very powerful fire boat was the Seth Low, built for the Brooklyn department by the Cowles Engineering Company of that city. This company has since built a number of fire boats
Fig. 10.—The Fire Boat New-Yorker, New York Fire Department.
for different cities, one of them being the New-Yorker, which is among the most powerful in the world. Chicago has four fire boats in her department. The modern fire boat is sometimes built of wood, but generally of iron, and in some cases the decks are so provided with corrugated iron shields and sprinklers that the boat can be worked to advantage in a perfect sea of fire. The whole power of the pumps can be concentrated in one stream from three to five inches in diameter, from a swivel nozzle on the forward deck, or, instead, a large number of ordinary fire streams can be played at once. When using the one powerful stream at the bow a brick wall can be penetrated, and the fire is not only deluged, but the force of the stream knocks the flaming timbers to pieces, and so distributes the fire that it can be quenched more rapidly. When playing a multitude of smaller streams the fire boat can go between a warehouse and a group of vessels, no matter how furious the fire may be, and there obtain a point of vantage impossible to a land engine. It is stated that the New-Yorker could sink herself in fifty seconds. The crew live in a house on the wharf where the boat is stationed, and can reach their places as rapidly as the members of a land fire company can reach their engines. Fires are kept banked at all hours, and every alarm within reach of the water front is answered. It will not be out of place to quote a passage from an article on Modern Fire Apparatus in Scribner's of January, 1891:
"It is not uninteresting to note that there are floating fire engines in London. They consist of steam pumps placed on scows which are moored at long intervals along the water front. When an alarm of fire comes in, the captain of the scow goes whooping up and down the water front to get a tug to tow him to the place from which the alarm has come!"
Many cities increase the possibilities of fire boats by laying empty pipe lines from the water front inland. The fire boat can couple on the line nearest the fire and the land engines can draw from this unlimited water supply in addition to the regular city system. The time is probably not far distant when every town and city bordering navigable water will have one or more fire boats in its department.
Steam locomotives can be made to serve as fire engines by attaching a device made by the Nathan Manufacturing Company of New York. It consists of a pipe placed at a point just below the level of the stationary water tanks in use on the railroad. There are two receiving nozzles in the center and two delivery nozzles at the base. The former are connected with a tank or an ordinary hydrant, and steam entering at the top of the pipe will force one eleven-sixteenths-inch stream one hundred and fifteen feet or two half-inch streams sixty feet. This device can be used very effectively in crowded freight yards where the regular firemen have difficulty in working with promptness, and also at way stations where there is no fire department.It has long been known that certain chemicals will not support combustion, and during the middle of this century a number of chemists began to devise means by which such chemicals could be used to advantage at fires. The first practical results were five to ten gallon cans filled with a mixture of gas and water. Small hose was attached, through which the fluid could be played.
Fig. 11.—Chemical Fire Engine.
In some instances the combination of gas and water aided greatly to extinguish the fire, while in others the gas escaped into the air and served only to force the water in a stream. The successful inventors soon tried large tanks on two and four wheeled trucks, and to-day all sizes, from tin and glass hand grenades up to large double-tank four-wheeled engines, are in use.
The first chemical engine was put on the market by the New England Fire Extinguisher Company of Northampton, Mass. The Babcock Company of Chicago took this up, and by the aid of one of their engineers, Mr. Wellington Lee, who had previously done much work with steam fire engines, soon made it much more successful.
The Holloway, of Baltimore, the Babcock and Champion, made by the Fire Extinguisher Manufacturing Company of Chicago, and the Hutson and the Lindgren-Mahan, also of Chicago, are the engines in general use at the present day. The chemicals used in these different engines are more or less the same, and the engines themselves consist of one or two tanks placed either horizontally or vertically, and having one or two lines of small hose attached. In some cases small extension ladders are carried. Combination chemical engines and hose wagons or carriages were used in Canada as early as 1883. Springfield, Ohio, Lawrence, Mass., Chicago, and Milwaukee had them in 1886. They have recently been adopted in Boston. The wagon is made deep and narrow, and a chemical tank placed on each side. Combination ladder trucks and chemical engines are also made. The New York department, the largest in the world, has discarded the use of chemical engines, but they are considered necessary adjuncts to most of the other fire departments of the country. Five or ten gallon tank extinguishers, however, are carried on all hose wagons and ladder trucks in New York and elsewhere. The chemical engine can go into action more quickly than a steam fire engine, and will extinguish small blazes with very little water damage. In connection with chemical engines it might be stated that for fires in electrical stations sand is the best extinguisher known. It has been found by experience that the application of water simply complicates matters by crossing currents, increasing the sparking, and ruining the plant.
It has been remarked that the Button hand engines are still made. Country departments, when old city tubs can not be bought, must have new hand engines made for them. The Gleason & Bailey Manufacturing Company, of New York, are extensive builders of these.
Several inventors have tried their hands at producing an electric fire engine, either to have the boiler and fire box of a steamer replaced with storage batteries, or else to have a trolley connection that could be used on any convenient electric railroad wire. In 1888, or thereabout, Mr. S. S. Wheeler, of New York, designed an electric engine which was constructed by placing a
Fig. 12.—Electric Fire Engine.
Sprague electric motor, directly attached to a Silsby rotary pump, on a Silsby crane-neck steam fire-engine truck. Several hundred feet of insulated wire were carried to be attached to electric connections. This engine is now the property of the Crocker-Wheeler Electric Company. Mr. Joseph Sachs has also invented an electric engine, which is described in Cassier's Magazine for February, 1895. Undoubtedly in the future some machine of this kind will be introduced, but at present the industry is still in its infancy.
[To be concluded.]