What do ox guts, leather, and cotton have in common and what is their part in the history of the fire service? Well, we are about to find out.

What do ox guts, leather, and cotton have in common and what is their part in the history of the fire service? Well, we are about to find out.

We can go back to 300-400 BC to find the earliest application and use of fire hose – this early fire hose was ox gut. Firemen in those days would fill bags of water and then force this water into the ox gut. Firefighters would then either sit on or jump on the gut, thus forcing water out onto the fire.

Fast forward to early America and as discussed in earlier articles the main delivery of water to a fire was the bucket and the bucket brigade. It was not until the late 1600s that the ideas and concepts of fire hose used by early civilizations made their appearance in the new world.

Jan Van Der Heiden and his son are credited for the invention and creation of the first modern day fire hose. The “Dutchmen,” a term in the fire service we will discuss next week, developed this hose by sewing together 50-foot lengths of leather in a similar fashion as a boot.

These sections of hose allowed firemen to direct the flow of water to the area in which it needed to be applied. These sections of hose leaked heavily, were subject to bursting under higher pressures, and weighed nearly 75 pounds each.

It took over 100 years for this process to be improved upon. In the early 1800s Philadelphia Firemen James Sellars and Abraham Pennock began utilizing metal rivets to seam the sections of leather hose. While this process both reduced the leakage and increased the reliability from bursting under pressure, it added nearly 10 pounds per section of hose.

While more effective in water application than the leather bucket, the maintenance of this hose was quite intensive. Leather has a tendency to dry out and crack if not treated and cared for. The hose had to be cleaned, dried and oiled to keep it in useable condition.

While the previous improvement took over a century is was only two decades later before the next major change. In 1821, a patent was given to James Boyd for cotton fire hose with a rubber lining and in 1839 Charles Goodyear developed a rubber hose reinforced with cotton ply. Boston Fire, New York, and Cincinnati Fire were the first to use and praise this new application for fire hose.

The cotton hose was not without its own issues when it came to maintenance. If not properly cleaned, dried and stored cotton hose would mildew and rot. The benefits, though, far outweighed these issues as the reduction in weight and the increase in pressure capacities reduce the amount of firefighters needed to handle this hose and was more effective in water application.

With change, however, comes challenges and the fire service was about to face a large challenge that would take years to overcome. As more and more companies began to manufacture hose the lack of standards began to become a hurdle for departments. These challenges with couplings and threads will be discussed next week.