1886 Fire Hose Cart

The 1886 cart used by the all-volunteer James P. Wall Hose Company No. 2 in Sioux City has been restored and is on display at the Sioux City Public Museum, along with a dress uniform worn by one of the company's firefighters. The cart was purchased from the Silsby Manufacturing Co. of Seneca Falls, N.Y., and featured a leather hose weighing more than 1,000 pounds.

SIOUX CITY | If you lived in Sioux City during the 1880s and wanted fire protection, you bought a subscription from an all-volunteer hose company.

“You only got service if you paid,” said Sioux City Public Museum archival clerk Tom Munson. “Otherwise you burned!”

A hint of what those volunteers did to fight fires can be seen at the museum, at 607 Fourth St., where an 1886 fire hose cart and a firefighter’s dress uniform are on display.

This is the first time the cart -- featuring 5 ½-foot-diameter wheels -- has been shown to the public since it was donated to the museum 42 years ago. The cart was too large to fit inside the museum’s former home at the Peirce Mansion, at 2901 Jackson St.

Walt Beggs, who owned a photography studio in Sioux City, donated the cart in 1971. No one recalls where Beggs found it. He died in 2009 at the age of 85.

A little more than two years ago, Sioux City businessmen Irving Jensen Jr. and his son, Irving Jensen III, decided to have it restored. They enlisted craftsmen from six companies who volunteered to do the work.

Now the fire-engine-red cart with spiffy gold and black trim is taking center stage in the museum’s “What Ever Happened To?” exhibit.

The cart has four handles that four volunteer firefighters grabbed. On hills and over muddy streets, the rest of the 17 men of the James P. Wall Hose Company No. 2 pulled the cart with an attached rope. The leather hose alone weighed more than 1,000 pounds.

Wall was a contractor who was instrumental in creating an all-volunteer fire department in 1870. In 1886, he sponsored the hose company that bore his name. His company was on the north side of West Seventh Street between Market and Sioux streets.

Last October, Irving Jensen III donated a dress uniform that had been worn by one of the hose company’s firefighters, Leonard Hummel. He was a boilermaker at the Sioux City Foundry and Machine Works.

“I found it on eBay,” Jensen said.

He doesn’t recall what he paid but noted he didn't bid on it at first. Then he looked again and found a photograph of Hummell wearing the uniform and standing by the cart. 

The navy blue wool jacket is trimmed in gold braid and gold buttons with a white tie at the neck, a leather belt, a cap and a whistle. The museum provided matching pants and white gloves.

“What’s fascinating is, this uniform could have ended up in somebody’s attic and been moth-eaten,” museum  staffer Matt Anderson said.

Among the other items shown in the “What Ever Happened To?” display:

  • Lady Liberty: the statue that once stood in the parking lot of the Municipal Auditorium and has been in storage since construction started on the Tyson Events Center.
  • 1917 Hawkeye truck: built by the Sioux City Hawkeye Truck Co. A label inside the cab warns the driver not to exceed 15 mph.
  • 1878 juror’s chair: was in the Woodbury County Courthouse when it was on the southeast corner of Sixth and Pierce streets.
  • Wayne the horse: From 1913 to 1957, the full-sized plaster replica was a feature of the West Side Harness Co., at 518-511 W. Seventh St. Wayne was built in 1895 in Wayne, Neb.

 

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