PATENTED DEVICES IN FIRE DEPARTMENTS.
A NUMBER of years ago, when the present chief of the Fall River Fire Department, William C. Davol, Jr., was a member of a fire company, a very great rivalry existed between his company and the others as to getting out first to a fire and getting first water. The company to which the chief belonged was composed mainly of young, enterprising and active fellows, who were particularly ambitious and progressive, adopting every possible device to give them additional celerity in their movements.
It occurred to Chief Davol that one serious cause of delay arose from the horses standing in their stalls with their tails to the apparatus, and he conceived the idea of changing the stalls, placing them on lines parallel with the engine and facing to the front. He, accordingly, went to work on this idea and perfected a plan for which he obtained a patent. This plan faced the horses to the front, protected the front of the stalls with sliding doors, which could be opened by a trip on a weight, which was regulated by the striking of the gong. The gong, also, by the use of the trip devices released the horses. The horse was kept in his stall at the rear by a chain drawn across the stall. The object of the chief in getting up his patent was to prevent the competing companies of Fall River using a similar arrangement for their stalls. His company adopted this method, changed their stalls around and for weeks kept them closed from public view, so that their rivals should not ascertain the means by which they gained considerable time in getting out of the house. Finally, hwwever, some members of another company got access to the building and discovered how the horses were placed, and, the secret being out, the other companies of Fall River very soon adopted the same plan regarding their stalls. This is believed to be the first instance where the stalls of an enginehouse were arranged facing to the front and with the trip devices for opening the doors at the sound of the gong. The specifications of Davol’s patent are as follows, the plan being illustrated by two drawings:
In carrying out my invention, instead of constructing each stall open at its rear end, with its manger at the opposite end and next the end or wall of the stable, so that a horse to be taken from the stall has to back out of it, or stands with his head toward the wall, I arrange the stall so as to open at its end upon an induction-passage, arranged between such stall and.the end wall of the building; and, furthermore, I arrange the manger at the end of the stall next the engine-room, and close said end, except in providing it with a doorway sufficient for the horse to pass through, such opening being furnished with a door and leading into the space for stabling the steam fire engine. The passage in rear of the stall or stalls opens into a prolongation of it alongside of one of them, and leads into the space for stabling the engine in manner as shown. The horses while in the stalls thus stand with their heads next the doors and toward the engine. To each of the doors and the stalls a spring or other proper device is to be applied to suddenly pull open the door ; and, furthermore, each door should have a locking or bolting apparatus to keep it closed while it may be necessary to have the horses in the stalls. Such fastenings may be provided with mechanism by which they may be simultaneously operated, whether by manual power or by electricity, so as to enable the springs to suddenly open the doors.
On an alarm of fire being given an attendant is so to actuate the door-fastenings as to set open the doors, both of which will immediately open, and the horses, properly trained for the purpose, will immediately pass out of the stalls and take their places alongside of the pole of the engine, thus saving all the time heretofore required to back out or from the stalls the animals and turn them around, and lead them to the pole.
By a rope stretched across that open end which is next the inductionpassage of each stall, each horse standing with his tail toward the rope will be kept in the stall until the door may be open for him to escape. I claim—In the improved steam fire engine stable the stall induction-passage, each stall, the manger, the door, doorway and the engine-room or space, combined, constructed and arranged substantially as described and represented, each stall at its rear end opening into the inductionpassage, as explained.
The Davol patent is dated October 8, 1873, and is No. 144,068. His application was filed July 19, 1873. This patent it is believed covers all stalls placed in steam fire engine-houses that are facing to the front. Fall River and Newton subsequently paid Chief Davol at the rate of $25 a house for the use of his patent. The stalls in engine-houses are now generally constructed upon this plan. In connection with them are used the trips for releasing the horses, opening doors, etc., which were covered by patents issued to Sibert of the Indianapolis Fire Department and Bragg of California. Bragg made the first application for the trip devices, but Sibert perfected them, and made practical what with Bragg was more a matter of theory. As we have before stated, the patents of Sibert and Bragg have been purchased by a syndicate of Indianapolis capitalists, and these gentlemen, finding that a patent had been issued to Davol for opening stalls, last week visited Fall River and purchased from the chief all his rights under his patent. This syndicate are now the owners of the patent on the open stalls facing to the front, of the Sibert and Bragg patents for the trip devices for releasing horses and opening doors in engine-houses. These patents have been recognized by some of the cities, and the Bragg patent has been declared valid by two United States courts, one in Oregon and one in California. Indianapolis compromised with the syndicate for the use of the trips, paying at the rate of $100 for each 1000 inhabitants. The syndicate has presented its claim for royalties to various other cities, and will continue their efforts to collect royalties from all cities that are using any of these devices covered by their patents.
In THEjouRNALof last week a Philadelphia correspondent called attention to the fact that the devices for releasing horses and opening doors were in use in Philadelphia prior to the issuing of the patent to Bragg. On application to the patent – office we find that while Bragg’s patent was not issued to him until 1875, his application for the same was filed June 16, 1873, which would rule out the claims of priority for Philadelphia, for, as we are informed, to establish a claim of priority of invention it must be shown that the invention was in use at least two years before the patentee filed his application for a similar invention. This matter is one of very great importance to all fire departments, for the open stalls and the trip devices are in use in some form in nearly every department in the country. They have been recognized as necessary appliances to secure that degree of celerity of movement required in the apparatus of the fire service. They have contributed largely to the efficiency of the fire departments, and aided in saving millions of dollars of property to the porpertyowners of the country. While inventors are striving to improve the mechanics of the fire service, it is but right that their success in this direction should be properly recognized and adequately compensated, and those men who have had the ingenuity and the enterprise to perfect valuable devices are certainly entitled to due credit for their efforts, and to proper compensation.
As we have before stated, the only question that seems to be presented as regards the Davol, Sibert and the Bragg patents is one of priority, and until it is disposed of adversely by the courts the patents are entitled to respect at their face value. Since THE JOURNAL has called attention to this subject there has been a disposition to ridicule and “ pooh pooh ” the claims of the Indianapolis syndicate, but those who do this will find eventually that there is matter for serious consideration behind them. Copies of the patents are easily obtainable by anyone who desires to consult them by applying to the Commissioner of Patents at Washington and enclosing fifty cents. The cases tried under the Bragg patent in California and in Oregon were ably contested, the research extensive, occupying the court in each instance a number of days, a great mass of testimony being taken with a view to invalidate the patent; notwithstanding which their validity was maintained by the courts, and the cities of Portland and San Jose adjudged to be infringers. Damages were awarded against each, which were eventually paid.