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History of the Captain's Helmet

Around 1673, Dutch painter, inventor, and printmaker, Jan van der Heyden and his son produced what they referred to as “fire hose”. Interestingly, they sewed leather tubes together in 50 foot lengths, which is still considered a standard length to this day. This allowed fire fighters to get closer to the fire, which enabled them to aim and shoot the stream precisely where they wanted it. Jan van der Heyden also wrote the first firefighting manual: Brandspuiten-boek.

In the early 1800’s, hydrants, tanks, and cisterns were used, and nozzles were designed to further improve water flow characteristics. One problem that surfaced early on and plagued early fire hoses was leakage. The stitches that connected the leather leaked and after a while the leather itself began to seep water. The introduction of pump action tankers led to over pressure in which the hose would burst.

Rivets were introduced in 1807 and were applied to the thickest part or rear quarters of the cowhides. This made the hose almost leak proof, however it added significant weight. A 40 to 50 foot length of hose weighed upwards of 85 pounds. The leather hose required a good deal of maintenance much as it still does today. Early leather hose was treated with fish and whale oil to help preserve it.

In 1821, James Boyd patented rubber lined, woven jacketed fire hose. In those early days of modern fire hose the jackets were made from spun cotton. Akron Ohio’s own Charles Goodyear discovered the vulcanization process, and applied that to rubber hose, reinforced with cotton ply.

Through the subsequent decades to follow, fire hose has undergone monumental changes. The jackets are now polyester woven yarn, treated to resist mold, mildew and abrasion. The rubber extrusion process has advanced to the point that it really cannot be improved upon. A conduit will always be required to move “the wet stuff to the hot stuff” unless someone can devise a way to teleport it. One can only wonder, what improvements and developments lie ahead. For more information please click here.

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