AS in England from the days of Alfred the Great downwards through the Norman times to the middle of the last century, so in the earlier periods of history from the years that long antedated the birth of Christ, such as those in Nineveh and Assyria (probably), certainly in Egypt and elsewhere, down through the long line of Roman emperors, Merovingian kings, and the Middle Ages generally, the chief means of fire proteclion employed was that of prevention. Thus in England, in the time of Alfred and William the Conqueror and during many succeeding reigns, the curfew gave the signal at sunset or thereabouts for the exrinction of all the fires used for domestic purposes; but, should a fire hreik out, recourse was immediately had to a bucket brigade for its extinction—lire departments, even in the stage of syringes or hand-pumps, being an unknown quantity. Records of the early days of Rome tell of a band of firemen called matrieularii, and in the days of the Emperor Augustus (u C. 31-A. 0. 14) we read of his having appointed seven bands of firemen in the city, each of which was commanded bv a captain (tribunm), and had charge of two districts (regions) of the city the chief officer being the prefect of the watch (prae/titus vigiium), (See “Digests” I., title is. “Of the Duty of the Prefect of the Watch.’’)


These firemen, according to Pliny the Elder (A. D. 23 79), were also commonly found in the provincial towns of the Roman empire, and used to be as fond of rows, the result of private feuds and rivalries, as ever were New York’s old volunteer fire fighters.

In the “Epistles”of Pliny the Youngcr(book x.) we find him , as governor of Bithynia in Asia Minor, ordered by the Emperor Trajan, who died A. p. 17, after a reign of nineteen years, to enrol a corps similar to that of Augustus, and also to “ provide suclTmachines as are of service in the extinguishing of fires enjoining the owners to assist in preventing the mischief from spreading, and, if it should be necessary, to call in the aid of the populace.”


Pliny also relates that the town of Nicomedia in Bithynia, was nearly destroyed by fire, the wind spreading it and the indolence and the panic of the people allowing the flames to ravage nearly all the city.

The truth is (he adds) the c’ty was not turnished with engines, buckets or any single instrument proper to extinguish fires, which I have now, however, ordered to be provided.

The earliest history of fire extinguishing methods by anything in the way of an apparatus, goes back to the days of Ctesibius,a distinguished Greek mechanic, who lived in Egypt in the days of Ptolemy I. (Philadelphus) and Ptolemy II.)Euergetes) between H. C. 260 and B. c. 240, and was also a contemporary of Archimedes, of Sicily. The engine of Ctesibius is described by Virtruvius, the Roman writer on achitecture in the days of Julius Caesar and Augustus. As will be seen it was in every particular similar to a modern manual engine. Vitruvius writes as follows:

It remains now to describe the machine of Ctesibius. which raises water very high. This is made of brass; at the bottom a pait of buckets (cylinders) are placed at a little distance, having pipes, like the shape of a fork, annexed, meeting in a basin in the middle; at the upper holes of the pipes within the basin are made valves, hinged with very exact joints, which, stopping the holes, prevent the efllux of the water that will be pressed into the basin by the air; upon the basin a cover, like an inverted funnel, is fitted, which is adjoined and fastened to the -basin by a collar, riveted through, that the pressure of the water may not force it off. and on the top of it a pipe, called the tuba is affixed perpendicularly. The buckets (cylinders) have valves placed below the lower mouths of the pipes, and fixed over holes that are in the bottoms; then pistons, turned very smooth and anointed with oil, being inclosed in the buckets (cylinders), are worked with bars and levers from above; the repeated motion of these up and down pressing the air that is therein contained with the water through the mouths of the pipe into the basin, from whence, rising to the cover,the air presses it upwards through the pipe.

It is. therefore, clear that in this early fire engine an air vessel or chamber, within which the air was compressed, was used, and thus the water was forced to a considerable distance. The cylinders and valves used in the pumps were of brass, the pistons being accurately turned, and covered or packed with strips of unshorn sheepskin.

Hero,of Alexandria,a pupil of Ctesibius.and the inventor of a steam turbine, describes in his “ Spiritalia ” spherical vessels filled with water, having the discharge pipes descending perpendicularly into them. Small pumps or syringes are adapted to these vessels, so that air may be forced in to cause the ejection of the water. Hero illustrates and describes a double cylinder fire engine,with two brass force pumps connected to one discharge pipe. These smoothly bored and turned cylinders are secured to a base of wood and are partly immersed in water. The pistons accurately fit into them and their rods are attached by bolts to a double lever at equal distances from the centre or fulcrum. The engine has no carriage. The movable tube (tuba) gooseneck is fitted by a joint to the perpendicular one, by turning which the stream of water can be thrown in any direction. Thus he produced a practical fire en_ gine hardly improved upon by the modern.

Pliny, the younger, describes fire machines in which he uses the word sipho, which is afterwards explained by Hesychius, the grammarian of Alexandria, who lived in the fourth century after Christ, and Isidorus, of Miletus, who flourished at the beginning of the seventh century after Christ, to mean a fire engine—and so it was explained in the fourth century A. D. This is made all the clearer by the I-atin adjective (uiculandus )used by Pliny in describing the action of the sipho.” for throwing or casting the water ’’—the same term as is applied by ancient writers to the hurling of darts or javelins and hurling of stones by the balista or catapult. Juvenal, the great Latin poet and satirist, who lived in the middle of the first and the beginning of the second century after Christ, alludes in his Fourteenth Satire (v v. 305-308) to a certain rich man named Licinius.who “ bids his train of servants to watch by night, after they have placed the water machines, (though some think the poet means large grappling hooks fixed at the end of a long pole ) in their proper situations (dispositis hamis) the man being “alarmed for the safety of his amber, his statues, and his Phrygian column.”

Pliny the Younger,already quoted,alludes in the same “Epistles” to pipes or squirts (siphoned).the use of which was to put out fires.

For a long time after these writers history is dumb as to the growth of new and improved machinery for the extinguishment of fires. During what are termed the “ Dark Ages ” much greater reliance was placed upon the efficacy of relics, the tolling of consecrated bells, and the sprinkling of holy water on fires to put them out than on any human devices. Then the squirt or syringe, which, however, was in use long before the days of Ctesibius, came into general use in Europe—but reached England only at the close of the sixteenth century. Its use was probably revived first in Germany. It wa some such apparatus that is described by Apollodorus, of Damascus, an architect of great fame in the time of the Roman emperors Trajan and Hadrian (A. D. 104-138)—he was Trajan’s architect. He speaks of men carrying leather bottles with pipes attached, which, when squeezed, threw a jet of water upon fires and extinguished them.

To this primitive apparatus succeeded a powerful syringe or hand pump, which, especially in continental Europe and in its Eastern part, was for a long time the only instrument employed to extinguish fires.


These squirts came at last to be mounted on wheels and were operated by two or three men, one of whom fed the machine. They could be turned round in any direction and could throw a pretty strong stream a considerable distance both horizontally and vertically. They continued in use for many generations,as is seen from old pictures, as well as in the pages of the German Beckman, who found noticesof then in the records of many cities of Germany and came upon items detailing the cost of these and other primitive fire protective methods. Thus in the building accounts of Augsburg, among the items charged in the year 1518, we find payment for fire engines of some kind,d;scribed as “instruments of fire ” or “ instruments for water.” In all probability these were squirts, as the use of fire engines in the modern sense of the word, was of later date.

The earliest account of fire engines is that which is given by the Jesuit,Father Caspar 1657,in which he speaks of those made by Hautsch, of Nuremberg. A llautsch engine, resembled a water cistern about eight feet long, four feet high, and two feet wide,drawn by two horses on a sledge about ten feet long by four feet wide, which was worked by twenty-eight men and threw a stream one Inch in diameter to a distance of nearly eighty feet. It was fitted with flexible tubes or hose, but had no air chamber, and contained a horizontal (not vertical) cylinder or pump barrel, through which the piston worked, thus producing a pump-like action. The water was fed into this machine by buckets—a corps of men being told off to act as feeders.

When a suction-lu-se was first used is not quite clear; but it is credited to Jan and Nicholas Van der Heide, Hollanders, who on September 16, 1677, received a patent from the State General for twenty-five years, and then erected a pump factory which their descendants continued to operate until 1868.


Tn 1684 Perrault describes engines in use in Paris, one of which was in the royal library and could throw a continuous stream of water, although it had but one chamber. This it may be supposed was accomplished by means of the air cham ber, and Perrault’s account is said to be he first mentioned of the use t~f this device in fire engines. In the year 1699, the French king gave a pat~nt right to l)uperrier for the con. struction of such machines (J~om~e.s por/a/iv~s). These were conspicuous for the air vessel, with a working barrel or pump on each side, the pistons being worked with a double lever, to which the ends of the piston hose were attached. The cylin ders were of four-inch diameter by sixteen~inch stroke and were placed in a copper pan of an oval shape and quite openits depth being equal to the height of the cylinders; these last being bolted to z piece of plank having a short piece of rope fastened to each corner. The leather delivery hose was screwed to a copper pipe at one end of the pan, which communicated with the lower part of the air-chamber. The pumps could draw only from the vessel, and that was so small that a temporary canvas water-tight tank of conical form had to be placed round it,into which water was poured by a bucket brigade. Additional lengths of pipe arranged for joining together bv screws were at hand for throwing water the required distance.

I)e Caus in his “Forcible Movements,’’ 1G»5, describes a German fire engine,able to throw a forty-foot stream “ by help of four or five men lifting up and putting down a pumping handle in form of a lever, where the handle of the pump is fastened.” The pump had two suckers or valves within itone to open when the handle was lifted up, and to shut when it was put down and another to open to let out the water. At the end of the engine was a man to hold the copper pipe (or nozzle), connected by some flexible material, turning it to and fro on the fire. The De Cans engine had the engine fastened on a sleigh. Like that of llautsch, it had no air-vessel and was fed by a bucket brigade.


The syringe long ruled in England, and in the royal orders issued in 1667 by Charles II. to the City of London after the great fire the aldermen are ordered to provide large pumps and hand pumps. In the days of Queen Anne we read of these same officials being commanded to have fire engines on hand, and in an old engraving of a little later date are to be seen at work fire engines of the invention of Mr. John Loftus, a merchant of London. A certain Fowkes.a mechanical engineer, was undoubtedly a rival of Newsham in the line of manufacturing fne engines, though those of Newsham’s make are the best known to fame and survived till superseded by those of a better type.

Newsham himself was a London mechani cal engineer who died in 1743, after taking out patents for improvements in fire engines be tween the years 1721 and 1725 (Nos. 439 and 47~). His engine was long and narrow so as to admit of being passed through an ordinary door and was an improvement on that of John Hautsch, of Nuremberg. Germany. It was a strong oak cistern, about three times as long as it was broad, and was mounted on four wheels. The pump and air vessel were inclosed in a case, from whose top issued the jet-pipe. The suction pipe was of leather, with a spiral pipe of leather running throughout its length to prevent it collapsing as soon as the air within it became rarified by the first working of the pump.Oneextremityofthis pipe was secured to a nozzle at the lower end of the cistern; the otht eztiriuity being furnished with a strainer immersed in the water. Vhcti the suction pipe could not be used, water was poured from buckets intO a wooden trough furnished with a strainer, whence it passed into the cistern. A thrce.way cock beneath the under trough was turr.ed ac cording as the water was drawn through the suction pipe or poured in by hand. The pistoii rods were connected by chains with double sector-the chains king riveted to the sector and attached to the piston rod by screw nuts. Long handles connected with the sectors could be worked on each side and the water could be thrown in a continuous jet to a height of sixty or seventy feet with velocity enough to break windows. These handles, or levers, which actuated the pumps, were worked by men at each side. At one time treadles were provided in connection with the levers to enable several men to assist by standing with one foot on each, throwing their weight upon each treadle alternately. Newsham, it must be remembered, was not the inventor of the airvessel, only of the peculiar conformity of the nozzle, which enabled him to throw the jet of water at such a high velocity. In the London Daily Journal of April 8, 1726, is an account of the trial of a Newsham engine which threw a stream as high as the grasshopper on the top of the Royal Exchange—a height of 161 feet. The town of Dartmouth some years ago gave one of this class of engine to the South Kensington museum in lamdon. where it stands in the department of machinery and inventions. Its pump barrels are four and one-half inches in diameter, ahd the stroke eight and onehalf inches. It is in good order and could be used at any moment if required. Attached to it is the original paper of instructions, protected by a plate of km*. Newsham supplied a large number of insurance companies and the chief provincial towns with engines, and after his death, engines of i»is make were furnished to the royal navy by his wife and cousin, who carried on the business up to 1765. the firm’s sty 1A being “Newsham & i; Ma’I~s,

The cuts accompanying this article illustrate the various types of engines described,


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