Collecting Postcards


SPAAMFAA members share a common interest in collecting and or enjoying antique fire apparatus. An interesting characteristic of collectors is that they often collect more than one thing. One other field of apparatus related collecting is postcards that picture fire apparatus. The most sought-after postcards are the type known as “real photo” which, as the name implies, refer to actual photographs printed on photo paper with postcard printing on the reverse. Early apparatus manufacturers used real photo postcards extensively for advertising purposes. For example, general mailings were made to fire chiefs to feature a new type or model of apparatus. If a community purchased a new piece of apparatus, the manufacturer might give the proud chief a supply of real photo postcards featuring his new pride and joy which the chief would send to his contemporaries with a short personalized note.

Featured here is part of a collection of real photo advertising postcards sent to a Massachusetts fire chief, Chief George Johnson of the Waltham, MA Fire Department. Luckily, Chief Johnson saved a large number of advertising cards that he received, providing a treasure trove of reference material for apparatus historians.


Postcard from the Pope-Hartford Co. featuring a hose/chemical built for Brockton, MA, card is postmarked 12/20/09
(see reverse of card below)



This handsome pumper was manufactured by the Webb Motor Fire Apparatus Co. of St. Louis, MO. It would appear that the “A.F.D. ” on the hood is the Augusta, Georgia fire department as the reverse of the card (below) details the “machine’s” pumping prowess at a fire.



This advertising card for a Garford appears to suggest that the apparatus is used as it mentions that the tires are good and that the truck could be adapted to a variety of uses. One wonders if the G.F.D. on hood indicates the truck was destined for a department that refused delivery, upgraded to a larger truck or if it stood for “Garford F.D. ” on the hood of a demonstrator unit. The Boston Garford and Willys dealer was the R&L Co. located at 915 Boylston Street, Boston.


Reverse of the Garford card.


This card is an image of a hose/chemical car built by the Jas. Boyd and Brother Co. , Inc. of Philadelphia, PA for the Montgomery Hose Company of Norristown, PA. As you will notice on the reverse below, this card was sent by the New England representative, The Cornelius Callahan Co. ,  to Chief Johnson.


The reference to “pioneer manufacturers of fire hose” relates to the fact that the original patent for riveted leather fire hose was held by the Boyd Bros. when they were located in Boston in 1819.


Not a real photo card but a colorized linen card made from the same photograph on the card above. The Norristown truck was delivered in “Royal Blue”. You will notice on the back that this card was mailed from the factory in 1911.


Rear of the colorized linen postcard.


While appearing to be an advertising postcard, close examination of this card shows that the sign in front of the running board states that the apparatus was “Built by – Superior Fire Department”. The Superior, Wisconsin Fire Department built their own flying squad which, in the words of their Chief (see below) “Has been in service nearly three years and has put out more fires than all of the other apparatus put together. “