M930.50.1.164 | Steam fire engine

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Steam fire engine
John Henry Walker (1831-1899)
About 1860-1870, 19th century
Ink on paper on supporting paper - Wood engraving
4.7 x 7.4 cm
Gift of Mr. David Ross McCord
© McCord Museum
Keywords:  Miscellaneous (671) , Print (10661)
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Keys to History

In the 18th century, the only equipment firemen had for fighting fires were leather buckets and manual pumps, which were not very efficient. This state of affairs lasted for part of the 19th century. For example, to put out the fire in Quebec City in 1845, the firemen used portable pumps drawn by horses; unfortunately, these pumps caught fire! The firemen also had to deal with low water pressure, which prevented them from working efficiently. Only in the last part of the 19th century did the steam pump, illustrated here, come to the rescue.

Source : Disasters and Calamities [Web tour], by Nathalie Lampron (see Links)

  • What

    A powerful team of 4 to 6 horses usually drew the steam fire pump to the fire site.

  • Where

    The steam engine was invented in England in 1712 by Thomas Newcomen. First used for pumping water from the mines, it was soon employed in several industrial sectors where a very powerful motive force was required.

  • When

    In 1873, the City of Quebec purchased a new steam pump for fighting fires.

  • Who

    From the mid-19th century, the fire fighter's work became more specialized. In Quebec City, policemen could no longer serve as fire fighters starting in 1866.