Monday, January 19, 2015

Firemen Switch from Horses to Motor Vehicles 100 Years Ago

The September 1913 issue of Municipal Engineering includes an article, "Motor Fire Apparatus," which describes the benefits that fire departments and cities could gain from substituting motor vehicles for horses. One of my 2nd great-uncles was a firefighter in Pittsburgh during this time period, so it caught my eye.

Genealogy and History
Caption from the article: "Climbing Gunboat Hill, New York, with one of the thirty-
five Mack combination chemical and hose trucks which are used in this city."

Below are a few paragraphs from the article, which I found in The Internet Archive.
"Within the next ten years over $80,000,000 will be invested in motor-driven fire apparatus. The majority of this will be spent within five years. During the last eighteen months the number of pieces of motor apparatus has increased from 600 to over 2,000. There are now in use 20,000 pieces of apparatus drawn by 35,000 horses. Pittsburg is motorizing its fire department and will effect a 50% profit on the transaction. The property loss in Springfield, Mass., was $369,000 less in 1912 than in 1907. The number of motors in use between these dates was increased by 19. Isn't it self-evident that motors will eventually supplant fire horses in the U.S.?
Paris has advanced much further in this direction than American cities, the municipal council of the French capital having decided to abolish horses from all municipal service. Following a test of various types of motor vehicles by the street cleaning department last year, the authorities have recently put into service a large number of combination street watering and sweeping machines and electric garbage wagons. In five of the twenty city wards the horse had been displaced by these machines up to last April, and other wards had made a partial change. ... Doubtless it will be some years before American cities reach the advanced position of Paris, but it is certain that in time all big cities will abolish horses from municipal service, and some will prohibit or restrict their use by private citizens.
Pittsburg is motorizing her fire department rapidly, a process that John H. Dailey, director of the department of public safety, estimates will take about three years to complete. He predicts that there will hardly be a city of any size in the United States in five years where fire apparatus is not mostly self-propelled. His prediction is based on personal experience with the efficiency and economy of motor equipment." 

There are many great photos of the different types of fire vehicles that were used in Tacoma, Washington; Delaware, Ohio; Portland, Oregon; Attleboro, Massachusetts; Tupelo, Mississippi; Memphis, Tennessee; and Philadelphia.

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