Those of us in central Massachusetts witnessed firsthand how firefighters risk their lives every day to protect the public’s safety when we learned of the tragic results of the Worcester Cold Storage fire in 1999. Our nation experienced many other major fires while the science of firefighting was still in its early stages. The Great Chicago Fire of 1871 burned from Sunday October 8th until Tuesday October 10th burning over 3 square miles and killing hundreds. The 1906 San Francisco Earthquake took place on April 18, 1906 and spawned fires that lasted several days. 80% of San Francisco was destroyed and over 3000 people died.
There are many historic fires that took place here in Massachusetts. The Great Boston Fire of 1872 began in a (the) basement of a warehouse on Summer St. on the evening of November 9th. It destroyed about 65 acres and caused over $73 million in damages.
Many collectors, including past and present firefighters, covet a wide variety of fire related items. We are fortunate to live in an area rich in history where there are opportunities at some local museums and at firemen’s musters to view old “handtub” hand pump fire engines from the 19th Century. Engines of this type are rarely discovered anymore but other important firefighting items still turn up and make their way to market.
We’ve been fortunate enough to handle the sale of a wide variety of firefighting memorabilia from a number of area estates. One estate contained a group of fire helmets. Metal helmets sold well and leather helmets brought even more. A shield on the front identifying the town and the engine number make them more desirable. A popular helmet maker like Cairns also increases the price. We sold a Boston made leather fire helmet with the shield on front for $990 in a 2006 auction.
Leather fire buckets are very collectible. Many can be wonderfully painted pieces of folk art. We sold one that had gold leaf lettering but no artwork. It was from the city of Boston and dated 1826. It brought $1,540 at one of our 2005 auctions.
One of the more important pieces of fire memorabilia that we sold was related to the Great Boston Fire of 1872 mentioned earlier in this column. Several of the fire companies that handled that blaze received commendations for their work. We sold a presentation trumpet that was given to one of the companies for their bravery and hard work during that fire. It fetched $2,800 at auction.
If you would like to know more about your firefighting items or any other antiques, you can email us pictures. Even better, join me at the Charlton Senior Center on July 24th beginning at 1:00 PM where we will be offering appraisals to the public. A $5 donation per item is requested or 3 items for $10 to benefit the Senior Center’s programs.
If you have any questions about antique auctions and estate sales, call Wayne Tuiskula, Auctioneer/Appraiser at 508-612-6111 or email us today.
Our articles are published in the Webster Times, Spencer New Leader, Auburn News, Blackstone Valley Tribune, Charlton Villager, Killingly Villager, Putnam Villager, Sturbridge Villager, Thompson Villager and Woodstock Villager.