Prospect Fire Apparatus

Prospect Fire Apparatus by Steve Hagy

(All photographs are “Thumbnails” — click on the picture to see a larger image.)

One of the more successful apparatus manufacturers of the teens and twenties was The Prospect Fire Engine Company of Prospect, Ohio. This company produced large numbers of pumpers, hose wagons, and chemical units on a variety of commercial truck chassis.

#1 Many combination chemical and hose rigs were built by Prospect. This 1919 Ford served with the Brookville, Ohio Fire Department. Steve Hagy

The company traces its roots back to a partnership between C. H. Sutphen and S. L. Wottring. This partnership eventually led to the incorporation of the Prospect Manufacturing Company. Sales initially consisted of hand drawn chemical wagons, hose reels, and ladder trucks.

Increased demand for fire apparatus that was mounted on a motorized car or truck chassis led to the production of units assembled on the Ford Model T. In the late teens Prospect began to produce pumpers. The capacity of the pump was severely limited by the meager horsepower of the Model T. Although early pumper deliveries were equipped with Hale pumps, Prospect quickly developed a highly efficient rotary gear pump of their own design. Once the in house pump was ready for production, sales of pumping engines to small town departments began to skyrocket!

#2 Model T Ford’s were also used as pumpers such as this 250 gpm job that is still owned by Monroe, Ohio. Steve Hagy

With a large variety of commercial trucks and quality motor cars to mount their apparatus on, Prospect soon expanded beyond the offerings of the Model T and began delivering a variety of hose wagons and pumpers using Reo, Stewart, GMC, Chevrolet, Packard, Cadillac, Dodge Brothers, Graham, International, and Diamond T chassis.

#3 Prospect built a number of apparatus on custom and commercial chassis using front mount pumps. This 1923 Biederman for Tipp City, Ohio had the chemical tanks replaced by a booster tank. Steve Hagy

Like many apparatus manufacturers Prospect offered a top-of-the-line custom chassis. The “Deluge Master Fire Fighter” was actually a Biederman truck chassis that was built in Cincinnati. Most deliveries of Prospect Deluge apparatus were pumpers. However some one off units produced included a tractor for a water tower delivered to Cleveland, Ohio in 1925, a large capacity hose wagon for the Kodak Park Fire Department in Rochester, New York, and a 500 gpm quad that was sold to Cambridge, Ohio.

#4 Chemical carts were a mainstay in the Prospect sales line. This nicely restored 2 tank unit is owned by Christiansburg, Ohio and was built as a hand drawn apparatus. Steve Hagy

Prospect was also an ambitious user of front mount pumps. Using a Chevrolet Six chassis the front mount pump was able to achieve a respectable rating of 355 gpm at 123 psi. Using a Ford Model AA chassis a capacity of 315 gpm at 120 psi was developed.

Near the end of the company’s history custom units were assembled on Mars truck chassis. Midlothian, Illinois, Grill, Pennsylvania, and the Milford F.D. (state unknown) received pumpers on this handsomely styled chassis.

#5 This 1924 International/Prospect was the pride of the Thomasboro, Illinois Fire Department. Prospect rigs were constructed on Chevrolet, Ford, Reo, Graham Bros., Dodge and Biederman chassis in addition to IH. Chuck Madderom

One significant achievement of Prospect is that they developed an early airport rescue firefighting vehicle. Curtiss-Wright Aircraft at Valley Stream NY purchased the first “Airporter” in 1930. This apparatus was equipped with dual tires both front and rear and when delivered was the best unit available for this type of duty.

#6 New York state had numerous Prospect deliveries. The Marilla Fire company specified a Stewart truck chassis for their pumper. The pair of Dietz lanterns on the officers side with ladders and hard suction on the drivers side were typical on most Prospect apparatus. Steve Hagy Collection

#7 This view of Davison, Michigan’s 1924 Dodge gives a good idea of the compact size of some of these pumpers. Jack Connors

#8 SPAAMFAA member Bill Davis of Columbus, Ohio owns this 1925 Biederman/Prospect pumper that originally served Dawson, Pennsylvania. The engine then went to Lakemore, Ohio. Notice that the Biederman name is cast into the radiator shell on Bill’s rig. The “Prospect Master Deluge Firefighter” nameplate was normally placed on that spot. Steve Hagy

Unfortunately Prospect was a victim of the Depression. The company filed for bankruptcy in 1932. When the assets of the company were sold, Keenan Hanley purchased the firm and began building apparatus under the name of Hanley Engineering Service. The exact number of fire engines produced by Prospect is unknown but probably numbers in the hundreds. Many Prospect rigs survive with fire departments and SPAAMFAA members.

#9 This 1926 delivery to Mifflin, Pennsylvania shows the typical front end appearance of a Biederman/Prospect “custom“. Dan Martin

#10 Covington, Ohio owns this 1927 Biederman/Prospect. The paint and lettering are in exceptional condition on this pumper and the rig also carries most of it’s original equipment. This qualifies as the best maintained Prospect I have ever seen. Steve Hagy

#11 Another 1927 delivery, this apparatus has a two tone paint scheme. The large, plain bumper was a distinctive feature of the Biederman chassis jobs. East Petersburg, Pennsylvania purchased this 450 gpm unit for $5475.00. Robert Kimball

#12 With turnout coats and boots laying on the apparatus, this pumper is ready to roll! A 1928 Ford Model A chassis was used for this delivery to Cedar Springs, Michigan. Bob Barber

This short story is by no means meant to be a history of the company. SPAAMFAA member George Hanley (brother of Keenan) wrote a comprehensive history of Prospect that was published in 1997 under the title “Firefighters From Prospect”.

#13 This 1929 Chevrolet also sports a 350 gpm front mount pump. The booster tank is reminiscent of the style used on Pirsch apparatus during this period. Peebles, Ohio was the original owner. Steve Hagy

#14 Reo chassis were occasionally used when constructing a pumper. The Jamestown – Silvercreek, Ohio Fire Department maintains their 1929 delivery as a parade piece. The downward cast suction inlet was a standard feature with Prospect mid mount pumps. Steve Hagy

#15 The Rocky Ridge Volunteer Fire Company in Maryland owns this 1929 Ford with a front mount pump. Notice the large siren on the fender and the electric hand lantern mounted on the cowl. Dennis Adamski

#16 Midlothian, Illinois purchased this deluxe 500 gpm engine in 1930. Mounted on a Mars chassis, this beauty reflects more modern styling. Dan Martin

Additional sources of Prospect photos that are available on the Internet include:

Atglen Fire Department – This site has a photo of the 1924 Biederman/Prospect that was the first motorized apparatus of this Pennsylvania community.

Cambridge Fire Department – Look in the apparatus section of this site for a photo of the only know quad apparatus built by Prospect. There are other photos of early Cambridge apparatus including a steamer and a chemical and hose truck built on an Indiana chassis.

Chardon Fire Department – This Northeastern Ohio department maintains their 1928 Biederman/Prospect as a parade unit.

Youngstown Fire Message Board – Look in the “Fire Apparatus Dictionary” section under the “Apparatus by Manufacturer – Miscellaneous Builders” section for Prospect photos.

#21 Name plate used on some Prospect apparatus. Steve Hagy

#22 Some of the chemical tank arrangements that were available.

#23 This Prospect letterhead shows a pumper lettered for the “M.S.Y.F.A.”. Can anyone identify the department that owned this apparatus?