Guardians of The City SFFD Home Page - San Francisco Fire Department Museum SFFD HomeBack to GuardiansofTheCity.org Home Page
Museum Collections: Apparatus - Protection Company:
 
Circa 1810, a hand pulled and hand pumped side stroke fire engine with two 6 ¼ inch cylinders

THE PROTECTION ENGINE IS UNDOUBTEDLY THE OLDEST FIRE APPARATUS WEST OF THE MISSISSIPPI RIVER.

 
Protection Company

 

Builder: James Smith, New York

Location: Museum

Condition: Good, restored

Pumping crew: 12 to 16

Service History: 1849 - Spring 1852 - Protection No.2, Montgomery Street near Jackson Street.

This hand pulled and hand pumped engine was built by Mr. James Smith in New York City.  James Smith began his business of building fire engines in 1809.  This engine is one of his earliest, built before the advent of fire hose.  Therefore, it was necessary to place this engine close to the fire building in order to put a stream of water on the fire.  The engine has only one outlet, located on the top of the air chamber case.  A rotating gooseneck swivel fitting on the outlet allows vertical and horizontal movement of the nozzle, also known as a play pipe in those days, to fight a fire.  Later Smith engines of the same size and design have the technical improvement of one outlet at the front of the engine wash box.  This allowed a fireman to place a hose line onto the engine while standing on the ground rather than standing on the engine itself.  Also, this engine was in use before fire hydrant water systems were built.  A bucket brigade was formed to supply water to the engine from a cistern, a well, a stream or lake.  By pumping the side bars, or handles, the water pressure was increased through the cylinders and play pipe to extinguish the fire.

The Protection engine served with the Fire Department of New York for over 35 years.  It was then shipped around the horn to San Francisco in 1849.  This particular fire engine is one of the first three fire engines in San Francisco.

Protection Engine Company No. 2 was organized February 5, 1850 and took procession of this engine.  When the company disbanded in the spring of 1852,  the engine was then purchased by Barron, Boltop & Company, for fire protection in the quicksilver mines at New Alamaden, (now known as San Jose), Santa Clara County.  In 1914 Captain William J. Kenealey, Engine Co. No. 14, found the engine in San Jose and returned it to the City.  The engine was placed under the care of the Veteran Fireman's Association and paraded throughout the years.  In 1964, this engine was moved into the SFFD Museum at the time of its opening.   

Protection Air Chamber Cover

In 1979 the engine was sent to the California Correctional Institute at Tehachapi for a complete restoration.  The current blue and yellow colors were found under seven layers of paint.  When the engine was down to bare wood, char marks on the side of the air chamber housing supports and the rear of the wash box were found showing how close the engine was at one, or several, of its working fires.

The Department's muster team has since presented this engine throughout California and Nevada and has won numerous restoration, parade and working competition awards.  It is the 1982 Class II State Champion Hand Engine as awarded by the California Firemen's Muster Association. The engine has an after restoration best pumping distance of 137 feet 10 inches.

In July 2009 the pump gaskets and leathers were replaced.  Click here for the full story.

Back to the Top