Scholla: Claim Your Bucket August 18, 1944

The first fire buckets used in Berks County were made by the shoe cobblers and were hand-sewn of the best tanned sole leather.

In those days, the water supply had to be conveyed by buckets which the residents were required to keep available in their homes. These were generally hung at the front of the house, so that when an alarm of the fire was sounded and the the cry take up, “throw out your bucket,” the firemen and civilians racing up to the fire could easily pick them up.

When the nearest sources of water was located two lines, or brigades of fire fighters were formed to hand from one to the other the filled buckets and return the empty ones. Women and children frequently assisted in the line returning the empties.

When the fire was extinguished (out), the buckets were loaded onto a cart and carried to a central place and the watchmen on their rounds announced that the buckets were available for return to their respective owners by the familiar cry, “claim your bucket”.

It was not until 1806, when messrs. Sellers and Pennock, of Philadelphia, introduced leather fire hose held together by rivets of copper wire that hose played an effective part in extinguishing fires. The seams of the hose were double riveted with 22 copper rivets of number eight wire. The hose, when finished, with carrying loops and rings, weighed approximately 84 pounds for each 50 feet. This type of hose was supposed to withstand pressure of 200 pounds to the square inch. Cowhide was generally employed in the making of hose and after each fire had to be carefully dried and greased to keep it flexible. The grease used was a mixture of beef tallow and neat’s foot oil, applied warm before the hose was quite dry.

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On display at the Berks History Center.

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On display at the Berks History Center.

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