c.1830 Sun Fire Company Four-Man Hand-Drawn Double Pumper
Lancaster, Pennsylvania's Sun Fire Company had been serving the local community as early as July 1776. In 1829, Sun decided it was time to replace its outdated tub-type pumper built by Peter Getz in 1796. Located in what was then the Borough of Lancaster, the local business community had established an organization called the Friends of Home Manufacturers quietly putting pressure on businesses within the community to purchase whatever could be obtained from local businessmen. Despite the neighboring Union Fire Company's satisfaction with the Agnew engine it purchased from nearby Philadelphia, the Sun members thought it prudent to shop at home.
Martin Shreiner, a renowned local clockmaker, was at work during the years 1789-1829 building tall case clocks in Lancaster Chippendale walnut cases and later Lancaster Federal clocks of cherry and mahogany. In 1829 he turned his clock making business over to his two sons, Johann Martin and Johann Philip, when he began to build fire engines and related appliances. His craftsmanship of fire apparatus was equally well-known at the time; he had already invented a number of pieces of fire-fighting equipment including a new type of play pipe for use on the engines.
An announcement in The Journal of October 15, 1830 invited Lancastrians to attend the next day a demonstration of the new engine in the city's central Penn Square. It was described as "an elegant engine of the first class." Of note, its cost was not to exceed eight hundred dollars; a princely sum in 1830. At least five engines had been completed including one for Lititz, known as the "Assistance" and, the engine for the Sun Fire Co. The double-decked pumper used water supplied from a large metal tank set within the wood frame. As many as twenty men could be used to operate the pump handles; typically half on the ground and half on the equipment itself, thus the double-pumper moniker.
When delivered in December of that year, Sun Fire Company minutes stated that it "upon fair trial, fully answered the expectation of the company as to beauty and excellence of workmanship and power of throwing water." The pumper was rebuilt in 1858 with suction capability providing access to water supplied by a pump or hydrant. At some time later, the pumper was considered obsolete and sold to the Reamstown Fire Company, also within Lancaster County. Still later, it was sold Melvin Hershey, a Lebanon County salvage dealer. Remarkably it has survived intact some one hundred eighty two years later.
Fire pumpers of the time offered a new-found security to communities threatened by the ravages of fire. They were a source of great pride and intense admiration; designed not just to be functional but also beautiful. Sun Fire Company pumper 1 is no exception. Perhaps most notable are the engraved brass plates that adorn the front, sides, and rear of the engine. The front plate is artfully inscribed and reads, "When Duty Calls It Is Ours To Obey." These engravings were done and signed by noted portrait artist Jacob Eichholtz. Born in 1776, Eichholtz apprenticed as a coppersmith with his uncle. He continued to work as a coppersmith but devoted much of his time to painting. Outgrowing his studio in Lancaster, he moved to Philadelphia in 1822 then moved back to Lancaster ten years later. He died in 1842 having painted 800 portraits over 35 years.
Of further note is the carved sunburst ornamentation on both sides of the pumper body, no doubt evocative of the Sun Fire Company. While it is unknown if Shreiner himself did the carvings, they represent the unparalleled detail in craftsmanship for which he is noted. Shreiner's clocks today are considered masterpieces of the art and can be found in many significant collections.
Offered on a Bill of Sale.
- Please note this vehicle has been withdrawn from the auction.