The first Providence fire engine, built in 1822 for $3,000

Here is a great piece of Providence ephemera bearing a nice image of the “Hydraulion No. 1,” apparently the first successful “suction engine” used in the United States. According to a history of Providence published in 1886:

“This new engine was so powerful that it required thirty-six firemen to operate it, and with it were secured 1,000 feet of new copper-riveted hose . . . making it the most complete and powerful automatic, self-supplying fire-engine then invented, and capable of lifting water from the river and discharging it on a building on fire a thousand feet distant, thus enabling thirty-six men to do more effective work than 600 men, women and boys under the old system [of using buckets].”

“The first fire where it was practically used was in a large stable on Westminster Street, near the present site of the Butler Exchange (which burned so fiercely that Mr. James, a venerable citizen, dropped dead at the sight), when several citizens aided in laying the hose and placing the suction pipe in the Cove and the Hydraulion speedily put a stream on the now raging fire, and so quickly extinguished the fire without the use of buckets as before, as to win universal approval of the new machine and method.”

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