THE DEVELOPMENT OF THE AMERICAN FIRE SERVICE FOR ONE HUNDRED YEARS

THE DEVELOPMENT OF THE AMERICAN FIRE SERVICE FOR ONE HUNDRED YEARS

(Continued from Page 2.)

It is not impossible that some engines were made in Massachusetts about the time of the Revolutionary War. In October, 1767, the people of Boston, irritated by the exactions of monarchy, determined in a town meeting to cease importing from the 31st of December following, numerous articles of British manufacture, among which were enumerated anchors, nails, peuter-ware, clothing, hats, carriages, cordage, furniture and fire engines. And in March, 1768, the Assembly resolved, “that this house will, by all prudent means, endeavor to discountenance the use of foreign superfluities, and to encourage the manufactures of this province”; hence it is reasonable to suppose that engines either had been or then could be made in the province; otherwise it is not likely that their importation would have been denounced. As an article of trade they were, from the limited number required, insignificant. They had no connection with luxury; and so far from being “superfluities,” they were necessary to protect the property of the people who would cease to import while unable to make them.

Fig. 14.

It was not until several years after the close of the struggle for independence that fire engines were made in New York and some other cities. Small engines were formerly used, but around 1840 they gradually disappeared, the manufacturers confining themselves principally to the largest. The use of buckets had also been discontinued at the time, on account of the extensive application of hose. Village engines were sometimes constructed with single cylinders and double acting, but being more liable to derangement, they were not extensively used. Rotary engines were also made in some parts of New England, on the principle of Bramah and Dickenson’s pumps (Fig. 14). As ordinary fire engines were merely forcing pumps, arranged in carriages and furnished with flexible pipes, it is not to be supposed that any radical improvements upon them could have been effected. The pump itself was, perhaps, not capable of any material change for the better; and it was in 1850 essentially the same as when used by Ctesibius and Heron in Egypt, twenty centuries ago. Hence fire engines, since hose and air chambers were introduced, have differed from each other chiefly in the carriages and in the arrangement and dimensions of the pumps.

In this respect there was not much difference between European and American engines; nor in the varieties of the latter. Those made in Philadelphia rather resemble French and German engines, in working the pumps at the ends of the carriages, and without the sectors and chains; while New York engines were precisely the same as Newsham’s, both in the arrangement of the pumps and mode of working them, with the exception of treadles, which were not used.

Fig. 15 represents an external view of a Philadelphia engine; the pumps and air vessel are arranged as in Fig. 8, but the piston rods are connected directly to the bent lever, which is moved by a double set of handles or staves. A number of men stand upon each end of the cistern and work the engine by the staves nearest to them, while others on the ground apply their strength to the staves at the extremities of the lever. The staves turn upon studs at the center of the cross bars, and when put in operation fall into clasps that retain them in their places. Provision is made to convey the stream either from the lower or from the upper part of the air chamber. Hose companies supply the engines with water. The firemen, as in all small American towns to-day, were volunteers and generally consisted of young tradesmen and merchants’ clerks, etc. They were exempt from militia and jury duty. Each member paid a certain sum on his admission, and a small annual subscription. A fine was also imposed upon any one appearing on duty without his appropriate dress (see Fig. 12), as well for being absent. A generous spirit of rivalry existed among the different companies which induced them to keep their engines in a high state of working order.

Fig. 15. External View of a Philadelphia Fire Engine.

Fig. 12 exhibits a New York engine. The pump cylinders were arranged and worked precisely as shown in the section, Fig. 8. They were six and a half inches diameter, and the pistons had a stroke of nine inches. Previous to the formation of hose companies, each engine was provided with a reel of hose. This when not in use was covered by a case of varnished cloth or leather. The stream of water is invariably taken from the top of the air chambers, which resemble the one in Fig. 8.

In exterior decoration American engines were probably unrivaled, the firemen taking pride in ornamenting their respective machines, and hence most of them were finished in the most superb and expensive manner. The whole of the iron work, except the tire of the wheels, was frequently plated with silver; every part formed of brass was brought to the highest polish, and while all the wood work, including the wheels, was elegantly painted and gilded, the backs, fronts, and panels of the case that enclosed the air chamber and pumps, were enriched with historical and ememblematical paintings and carved work by the first artists.

The most valuable contribution of American mechanicians to the means of extinguishing fires was the riveted hose, invented by Sellers & Pennock of Philadelphia.

Advent of the Steam Fire Engine.

The Mechanics’ Institute of New York offered a gold medal (in January, 1840), for the best plan of a steam fire engine. The publication of the notice was very limited, and but two or three plans were sent in. Of these Mr. John Ericsson, designer of the battleship Monitor, received the prize.

Attempts to supersede fire engines before the advent of the steam fire engine were common. Zachary Greyl is said to be the first who, in modern times, devised a substitute. This consisted of a closed wooden vessel or barrel, containing a considerable quantity of water, and in the center a small iron or tin case full of gunpowder; from this case a tube was continued through the side or head of the barrel, and was filled with a composition that readily ignited. When a room was on fire, one of these machines was thrown or conveyed into it, and the powder exploding dispersed the water in the outer case in every direction and extinguished the flames. In 1723, Godfrey, an English chemist, copied this device, and impregnated the water with an “antiphligistic” substance. He named his machines “water bombs.” In the year 1734, the states of Sweden offered a premium of twenty thousand crowns for the best invention of stopping the progress of fires; upon which M. Fuches, a German chemist, introduced an apparatus of the same kind. Similar devices were brought forward in more recent days; but all except the chemical extinguisher have passed into oblivion.

Among the devices of later times for securing buildings from fire may be mentioned the plan of Dr. Hales, of covering the floors with a layer of earth; and that adopted by Harley in 1775, of nailing over joists, floors, stairs, partitions, etc., sheet iron or tin plate as a method of fireproofing. To increase the effect of fire engines, Thomas Ewebank devised in 1817, and put in practise at . Paterson, N. J., in 1820, the plan of fixing perforated copper pipes over or along the ceiling of each floor of a factory or other buildings, and connecting them with others on the outside, forming an open sprinkler system. Hose of a fire engine could be readily connected to the system from without.

Of the numerous fire escapes that have been brought forward in modern times, the greater part are such as were employed by the ancients to scale walls and to enter fortresses, etc., in times of war. It is obvious that the .same devices by which persons entered buildings would also answer the purpose of escaping from them. As the utmost ingenuity of the ancients was exercised in devising means to accomplish the one, it was natural that later inventors should hit upon similar contrivances to effect the others. In the old German translations there are illustrations of ladders of rope and leather, in great variety, with hooks at the ends which when thrown by hand or an engine, were designed to catch hold of the corners and tops of the walls or windows: folding ladders of wood and metal, some consisting of numerous pieces screwed into each other by the person ascending, till he reached the required elevation; others with rollers at their upper ends to facilitate their elevation by rearing them against the front of the walls; baskets or chests containing several persons raised perpendicularly on a movable frame by means of a screw below, that pushed out several hollow frames or tubes contained within each other, like those of a telescope, whose united length reached to the top of the place attacked. Sometimes the men were elevated in a basket suspended at the long end of a lever or swape. Several combinations of the lazy tongs, or jointed parallel bars, are also figured. One of these, moved on a carriage, raised a large box containing soldiers.

Anciently the authors of accidental fires were punished in proportion to the degree of negligence that occasioned them; and they were compelled to repair to the extent of their means the damage done to their neighbors. A law of this kind was instituted by Moses, probably in imitation of a similar one in force among the Egyptians. Other preventive measures consisted in the establishment of watchmen, whose duty it was to arrest thieves and incendiaries, and to give alarm in case of fire. From the earliest days, those who designedly fired buildings were put to death. A very ancient custom which related to the prevention of fires, is still partially kept up in Europe, although the design of its institution is almost forgotten, viz., the ringing of town bells about eight o’clock in the evening, as a signal for the inhabitants to put out their lights, rake together the fire in their hearths, and cover it with an instrument named a curfew (a corruption of couvre feu) and hence the evening peal became known as the “curfew bell.’ It has been supposed that the custom originated with William the Conqueror, but it prevailed over Europe long before his time, and was a very beneficial one, not only in constantly reminding the people to guard against fire, but indicating to them the usual time for retiring to rest; for neither clocks nor watches were then known, and in the absence of the sun they had no device for measuring time. Alfred the Great, who measured time by candles, ordered the inhabitants of Oxford to cover their fires on the ringing of the bell at curfew every night.

In the thirteenth year of Edward I. (A. D., 1285), an act was passed against incendiaries, and night watchmen were ordered to be appointed in every town and city. In 1429, another act declared, “If any threaten by casting bills to burn a house, if money be not laid in a certain place, and after do burn the house, such burning shall be adjudged high treason.” Regulations respecting fires were instituted in Frankfort in 1460. In 1468, straw thatch was forbidden, and in 1474, shingle roofs were prohibited. The first general orders respecting fires in Saxony are dated 1521, those for Dresden in 1529, and there is one respecting buildings in Augsburg, dated 1447. The following preamble to an act passed in the 37th year of Henry VIII, by which those found guilty of the crimes enumerated, were to suffer “the pains of death,” is interesting in more respects than one: “Where divers and sundry malicious and envious persons, being men of evil perverse dispositions, and seduced by the instigation of the devil, and minding the hurt, undoing and impoverishment of divers of the kings, true and faithful subjects, as enemies to the commonwealth of this realm, and as no true and obedient subjects unto the kings majesty, of their malicious and wicked minds, have of late invented and practised a new damnable kind of vice, displeasure and damnifying of the king’s true subjects and the commonwealth of this realm, as in secret burning of frames of timber, prepared and made by the owners thereof, ready to be set up and edified for houses; cutting out of heads and dams of pools, motes, stews and several waters; cutting of conduit-heads or conduit pipes; burning of wains and carts laden with coals or other goods; burning of heaps of wood, cut, felled and prepared for making coals; cutting out of beasts’ tongues; cutting off the ears of the king’s subjects; barking of apple trees, pear trees, and other fruit trees, and divers other like kinds of miserable offenses, to the great displeasure of Almighty God and of the king’s majesty,” etc. (Statutes at large.)

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THE DEVELOPMENT OF THE AMERICAN FIRE SERVICE FOR ONE HUNDRED YEARS

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THE DEVELOPMENT OF THE AMERICAN FIRE SERVICE FOR ONE HUNDRED YEARS

(Continued from page 486, Vol. LXII.)

After New Netherlands became a British province, similar ordinances continued to be enacted till the year 1731, when two of Newsham’s engines were ordered from London. These were probably the first fire engines used on this continent. The following extracts are from the minutes of the common council:

“At a common council, held the 16th day of February, 1676, in the 28th year after Charles II. Ordered that all and every person and persons that have any of the city’s ladders, buckets or hooks in their hands or custody, forthwith bring the same unto the mayor, as they will answer the contrary at their peril.” The same date some wells were ordered to be made “for the public good of the city,” among which was “one over against Youleff Johnson’s, the butcher; and another in Broadway against Mr. Vandike’s.” “At a common council, held the loth day of March, 1683, in the 36th reign of Charles II. Ordered that provision be made for hooks, ladders and buckets to be kept in convenient places within this city, for avoiding the peril of fire.” No mention is here made of engines, nor in the next extract, wherein the want of instruments to quench fire is especially referred to. “February 28, 1686: Whereas great damages have been done by fire in this city by reason there were not instruments to quench same. It is ordered that every inhabitant within the city, whose dwelling has two chimneys, shall provide one bucket for its use, and every house having more than two hearths shall have two buckets.” Every brewer was to provide six and every baker three buckets, under a penalty of six shillings for every bucket ordered. “January, 1689: Ordered that there be appointed five Brent masters for the city of New York, as follows: Peter Adolf, Derek Vanderbrink, Derek Twn Eyk, Jacob Borlen, Tobia Stoutenburgh; and that five ladders be made to serve upon occasion of fire, with sufficient hooks thereto.”

November 16, 1695: Every dwelling in the city was to be provided with one or more buckets by New Year’s Day. The tenants were to provide them for the houses they occupied, and the cost to be deducted from the rent. Every brewer was again ordered to procure for his premises six, and every baker three. Several buckets were lost, and the public crier was directed to give notice. These “orders” do not appear to have been implicitly obeyed, for they were frequently repeated, and in November, 1703, a penalty was attached for non-compliance. “October 1, 1706: Ordered that Alderman Vanderburgh do provide for the public use of this city eight ladders and two fire hooks and poles of such length and dimensions as he shall judge to be convenient, to be used in case of fire.” November 20, 1716, a committee was appointed “to provide a sufficient number of ladders and hooks for the public use of this city in case of fire.”

In November, 1730: Fire engines are first mentioned. On the 18th of that month among other provisions enacted for the prevention and extinguishment of fires, one is in the following words: “And be it ordained by the authority aforesaid, that forthwith provision be made for hooks, ladders and buckets, and fire engines to be kept in convenient places within the city for avoiding the peril of fire.” At the same time the inhabitants were again directed to provide and keep buckets in their houses. It does not appear that any active measures to procure the engines were taken till the next year, for under the date of May 6, 1731, the common council “Resolved, that this corporation do with all convenient speed procure two complete fire engines, with suction and all material thereunto belonging, for the public service; that the sizes thereof be the fourth and sixth sizes of Mr. Newsham’s fire engines; and that the mayor, Alderman Cruger, Alderman Rutgers and Alderman Roosevelt, or any three of them, be a committee to agree with proper merchant, or merchants, to send to London for the same by the first conveyance and report upon what terms the said fire engines, etc., will be delivered to this corporation.”

On the 12th of June the committee reported that the engines could be imported at an advance of 120 per cent, on the invoice, and they were ordered accordingly. They seem to have arrived about the 1st of December, for on that day a room in the city hall was ordered to be fitted up “for seeming the fire engines.” On the 14th of December a committee of two was appointed “to have the fire engines cleaned and the leathers oiled and put into boxes, that the same may be fit for immediate use.” January 2, 1732, the mayor and four members of the court were authorized to employ persons to put the fire engines in good order and also to agree with proper persons to look after and take care of the same.

New York’s First Paid Chief.

It appears that Anthony Lamb was the first superintendent of fire engines, for on the 24th of January, 1735, the mayor was ordered “to issue his warrant to the treasurer to pay Mr. Anthony Lamb, overseer of the fire engines, or order the sum of three pounds, current money of this colony, in full of one quarter of a year’s salary, due and ending the first instant.” On the same date a committee was appointed to employ workmen “to put them in good repair, and that they have full power to agree with any person or persons by the year, to keep the same in such good plight, repair and condition and to play the same as often as there shall be occasion upon any emergency.”

April 15, 1736. “A convenient house (was ordered) to be made contiguous to the watch house in the Broad street for securing and well keeping the fire engines.” This seems to have been the first engine house. May 1, 1735, Jacobus Turk, a gunsmith, was appointed to take charge of the fire engines and to keep them in repair at his own cost, for a salary of ten pounds to be advanced “to the said Jacobus Turk to enable him to go on with finishing a small fire engine he is making for an experiment”; probably the first made in America.

Colonial Firemen Exempt from Military Duty.

November 4, 1737. The common council drew up a petition to the legislature to enable the corporation “to appoint fourand-twenty able-bodied men, inhabitants within this city, who shall be called the firemen of this city, to work and play the fire engines within the same, upon all occasions and emergencies, when they shall be thereunto required by the overseer of the said engines, or the magistrates of the said city, and that the said firemen as a recompense and reward for that service, may by the same law be excused and exempted from being elected and serving in the office of a constable, or being enlisted, or doing any duty in the militia regiment, troops or companies, in the said city, or doing any duty in any of the said offices during their continuance as firemen aforesaid.” This law was passed by the assembly in September following, and the duty of firemen defined. The next notice of engines occurs ten years afterwards, in March, 1748, when the corporation “ordered that one of the fire engines of this city, of the second size, be removed to Montgomery Ward, of this city, near Mr. Hardcnbrooks; and that a shed be built thereabouts at the charge of this corporation. for the securing and keeping the same.” By this it appears that several engines besides the two original ones were then in use. The one just named was a different size (much smaller) than those first ordered. It is uncertain whether the additional ones were made by Mr. Turk, but probably not, since both large and small ones were ordered from London for several years after this date. From the following extract it is observed that several of the large fire engines (the sixth size of Newsham) belonged to the city. February 28, 1749. “Ordered that Major Vanhousand and Mr. Provost do take care to get sufficient house built for one of the targe ure engines, to be kept in some part of Hanover Square at the expense of tins corporation, and that Uiere be a convenience made therein for hanging fifty buckets; and also ordered that there be 100 new fire buckets made for the use of this corporation with all convenient speed.”

May 8, 1752. ‘‘Ordered that Jacob Turk have liberty to purchase six small speaking trumpets fur the use of this corporation,” i. e., for the purpose of giving directions to firemen during conflagrations. June 20, 1768. “One large fire engine, one small do. and two hand do.” were ordered to be procured from Loudon. July 24, 1701. Mr. Turk, alter superintending the engines for twenty-five years, was superseded by Jacobus StouteuLurgh, who was directed to take charge of them at a salary of thirty pounds; and “the late overseer, Mr. Jacobus Turk, was ordered to deliver up to the said Jacobus Stoutenburgli the said several fire engiues.” November 19, 1702. The firemen were directed to wear leather caps when on duty. May 7, 1772. An engine was ordered to be provided for the Uut ward. July 10, 1772. “Alderman Gautier laid before this board an account of the cost of two fire engines belonging to Thomas Tillier, and Alderman Gautier is requested to purchase the same.” September 9, 1772. A committee was authorized ‘‘to purchase one other tire engine of David Hunt.” The three engines last named were probably from England, for at the time these machines were in the list of ordinarily imported manufactures.

(To be continued)