Friday, May 19, 2023

Early 1900s Fire extinguishers

by Susan G Mathis

The homes and buildings of the early 1900s provided several sources of fire hazards and plenty of fodder to feed a fire. Fireplaces, wood and coal stoves, candles, oil lamps, and kerosene were just a few. Bedding, clothing, and dry wooden furniture were not fire retardant as they are today.

The lack of easy communication didn’t help either. Fire victims often had to wait—too long—for a message for help and volunteer firefighters to come to their aid. So, in-home fire protection became a must, even as early as the late 1600s.

Laws required fire buckets, often made of leather, to be in every home and business, and most owners painted their names on them. Pubs, bakers, and other fire-hazardous businesses were required to have multiple buckets.

Businesses and wealthier homes also had fire extinguishers at the ready. Before 1910, soda-acid extinguishers were the go-to safety items. Two viles of sulfuric acid were broken and mixed with bicarbonate solution, causing a chemical reaction in a tank. Though not too effective, it was better than nothing.

Around 1905, a Russian inventor, Alexander Laurant, created a chemical foam extinguisher with licorice root and sodium bicarbonate. A step better, but not great.

Fire extinguisher bombs or glass grenade fire extinguisher were a favorite from 1870 to 1912. Shaped like a light bulb, filled with liquid, and stored on metal brackets on the wall near a stove or fireplace, if there was a fire, anyone could throw it on the fire. That would either put it out or give the person time to escape. Some were filled with salt water, while others contained carbon tetrachloride.

People in the early 1900s lived with the daily fear of fire’s smoke, heat, backdrafts, and toxic fumes. Very few lived long without knowing someone who was killed, maimed, or harmed by fire. In Mary’s Moment, the summer community of Thousand Island Park lost more than a hundred homes, businesses, and hotels. It’s a tale that will bring fire danger to life.

About Mary’s Moment:

Mathis’s attention to detail and rich history is classic Mathis, and no one does it better.—Margaret Brownley, N.Y. Times bestselling author

Summer 1912

Thousand Island Park’s switchboard operator ​Mary Flynn is christened the community heroine for her quick action that saves dozens of homes from a terrible fire. Less than a month later, when another disastrous fire rages through the Park, Mary loses her memory as she risks her life in a neighbor's burning cottage. Will she remember the truth of who she is or be deceived by a treacherous scoundrel?

Widowed fireman George Flannigan is enamored by the brave raven-haired lass and takes every opportunity to connect with Mary. But he has hidden griefs of his own that cause him great heartache. When George can’t stop the destructive Columbian Hotel fire from eradicating more than a hundred businesses and homes, he is distraught. Yet George’s greater concern is Mary. Will she remember their budding relationship or be forever lost to him?

About Susan:

Susan G Mathis is an international award-winning, multi-published author of stories set in the beautiful Thousand Islands in upstate NY. Susan has been published more than twenty-five times in full-length novels, novellas, and non-fiction books. She has ten in her fiction line including Mary’s Moment. Susan is also a published author of two premarital books, stories in a dozen compilations, and hundreds of published articles. Susan lives in Colorado Springs and enjoys traveling the world. Visit for more.

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for posting today. The evolution of the fire extinguisher is interesting. I think people nowadays might be a bit neglectful of preparing for a chance of fire, I know I don't pay much attention to our extinguisher, but you only have to live through one encounter to be grateful for having one in your home.