IN THE CITIES of this country, where crowded streets and two-story dwellings were the rule, improvements in fire-fighting equipment became a necessity. A variety of hand pumpers were produced in the middle years of the eighteenth century. The hand pumper's main function was to suck and pump water as its tanks were filled by buckets, a long and tedious process that could seldom keep pace with the raging flames.
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Hand pumper built by Patrick Lyon in 1806 for Pennsylvania Fire Company No. 22, Philadelphia; painted side panels and decorations by an anonymous hand
Hand-powered pump, solidly constructed of oak with fine hand-wrought iron hose racks. Built in Boston in 1838
THESE EARLIEST machines were exact replicas of the hand pumpers used by the ancient Egyptians, as depicted on tombs and artifacts. Later developments included longer pumping brake arms, which accomodated up to a dozen men for greater pumping force, and rowing-type engines in which the firemen sat and rowed in much the same fashion as galley slaves on ancient triremes.
Combination pumper and hose cart of sturdy construction designed to withstand heavy wear, c. 1850
Hose reel built by George Ruhl in 1851 for the Neptune Hose Company of Philadelphia. Delicate iron scrolls are typical of superb craftsmanship and grace achieved in much fire-fighting equipment