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January 16, 2007

Contact: Elaine Makatura (609) 292-2994
Darlene Yuhas (609) 984-1795


Photo of the fire engine
Photo Credit: Jonathan Carlucci, NJDEP
300 dpi print quality version [jpeg 1.21 Mb]

(07/03) TRENTON - Connecting the public with priceless pieces of New Jersey's past, Department of Environmental Protection Commissioner Lisa P. Jackson today announced the special exhibition of a rare, antique fire engine used to battle blazes in Trenton during the mid-19th century.

"Period fire engines of this type and condition are especially uncommon. We are proud to bring it back to the city it once served and share it with the people of New Jersey," Commissioner Jackson said. "We hope this exhibit enables residents to learn more about our state's unique firefighting history and deepens their appreciation of the courageous men and women who voluntarily risked their lives to protect others."

The engine is on a one-year renewal loan to the Meredith Havens Fire Museum, located on the first floor of Trenton Fire Department Headquarters on Perry Street.

"We are excited to see this relic of Trenton's firefighting history on display in our city," Trenton Mayor Douglas H. Palmer said. "The DEP's willingness to loan this remarkable piece of equipment is yet another in a long series of examples of extraordinary collaboration and constructive partnership."

Manufactured in 1850 by Young & Son of Philadelphia, the hand-operated engine was used by the all-volunteer Good Will Fire Company of Trenton for 42 years. The double-decker rig required 16 firefighters to operate it - eight men on the ground and another eight on foldout platforms atop its main body.

In 1892, the volunteer fire company disbanded and formed the first salaried squad of what is now the Trenton Fire Department, one of the nation's oldest. That year, the engine was retired from service and later restored by the Valentine & Weedon Carriage Company of Trenton. In 1898, the vehicle was presented as a museum piece to the Exempt Firemen's Association, then housed in the Good Will Fire Company's former headquarters on South Warren Street.

The engine eventually was acquired by the late Ernie Day, a Middlesex County resident and one-time volunteer fireman. As founder of the New Jersey Fire Equipment Company in 1933, Day sold fire apparatus throughout the Northeast. While delivering new equipment, he typically purchased obsolete vehicles, successfully amassing a collection that rivaled any museum.

Day donated much of his collection to the state; the DEP received the distinctive, hand-operated engine in 1974, and it is part of a 42-piece collection administered by the agency's Office of Historic Sites.

Today, the fire engine is regarded as one of the finest remaining examples of early firefighting equipment. Along with its ornate castings and elaborate carvings, the engine still retains most of its original paint finish. Particularly remarkable are the mural paintings featured on the engine's four center panels.




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Last Updated: January 16, 2007