Fire Museums Recall Era of Bucket Brigade

| September/October 1974

  • Steam fire engine
    First pulled by hand, this steam fire engine was later converted for horse-drawn operation. Vintage apparatus is displayed at American Museum of Fire Fighting in Hudson, New York

  • Steam fire engine

Courtesy of American Museum of Fire Fighting at the Firemen's Home of the State of New York, Harry Howard Avenue, Hudson, New York 12534.

With characteristic pride, New York's firemen have rescued the past.

An appreciation of their profession's colorful history has led them to establish two unusual museums one maintained by the State Firemen's Association in Hudson, New York, the other operated by the City Fire Department in Manhattan.

The physical catalog at Hudson's American Museum of Fire Fighting can be recited in a breath: 39 pieces of antique apparatus engines, pumpers, etc. several thousand other assorted items including hats, badges and banners, speaking trumpets; and a fine collection of oil paintings, prints and lithographs.

But there is more to the museum and the profession than just items, and the museum succeeds in telling the story of an endeavor close to America's heartbeat from the very beginning. Pastimes and politics, patriotism and philosophy; each has found a home in the firehouse.

For instance, during the Civil War, it became the custom for whole fire companies to enlist as units in the army. The practice is touchingly documented by one of the museum's paintings, entitled, 'The Unfortunate Soldier Boy.'