Clapp & Jones Steam Fire Engines

Steam fire engines made by Clapp & Jones serve as a reminder of early firefighting companies


| January/February 2002



1874 Clapp & Jones steam fire engine

An 1874 Clapp & Jones steam fire engine owned by the Union Fire Company of Frenchtown, N.J. It was purchased by the company in 1888 and completely restored in 1971.

Between 1862 to 1892, Mertilew R. Clapp and his partner, Edward D. Jones, built 500 steam fire engines at a factory located in Hudson, N.Y. Prior to starting his own company, Clapp worked first for the Silsby Manufacturing Co., a manufacturer of steam fire engines in Seneca Falls, N.Y., then later started building his own steam fire engines.

Clapp & Jones steam fire engines were available as both horizontal single piston pumps and horizontal double piston pump, vertical single piston pumps, and vertical double piston pump. American Fire Engine Company acquired Clapp & Jones in 1892.

The fire engine on the front cover of this issue is a Clapp & Jones steam fire engine built in 1874 in Hudson, N.Y. The steamer was purchased second-hand for $1,400 from Boston, where it had been used by the city's fire department.

The steam fire engine arrived in Frenchtown, N.J., on July 4, 1888, and hundreds of people showed up to view it. An article in the Frenchtown Stat on that date noted that the engine, then considered state-of-the-art, "threw water about twenty feet higher than the Methodist Church steeple."

On Sept. 12, 1888, the Union Fire Company No. 1 was organized and 60 new men enrolled as volunteer firemen. The engine was first called out on March 28, 1889, for a wood shed fire. During its long career of service the Clapp & Jones responded to a total of 48 fire alarms and a number of false alarms. The engine was retired on Oct. 12, 1925.

The borough council turned it over to the fire company in 1954, with the stipulation that it could not be sold without the consent of the council.