Fire Engine Plate, "Hayes Fire Truck"

Description (Brief)
At the core of any fire company is the apparatus used to fight fires and protect lives. This was particularly true of for the volunteer fire fighters in 19th century America. Often purchased with their own funds, their fire engines were the focus of their pride and affection, as well as their identities as fire fighters. Engine plates, often made of brass, would be prominently affixed to engines and inscribed with the company name, number, and founding date. Engine plates could pass from old engine to new, or be kept in the firehouse as a memorial to a departed apparatus.
This brass engine plate belonged to the Hayes Fire Truck. Daniel D. Hayes was a machinist working for the San Francisco Fire department who developed and patented the first fire truck aerial ladder. Hayes and William Free received patent number 74,821 on February 25, 1868 for their improvement in fire-escape ladders that were “portable and capable of being rapidly raised to any desired angle between a horizontal and perpendicular without being removed from the truck” so that people could escape or the fire could be subdued. American LaFrance purchased the patent and manufactured the “Hayes Aerial” beginning in the early 1880's. The rectangular brass plate with scalloped edges has been painted brown with raised lettering painted gold that reads “HAYES FIRE TRUCK/PATENTED/ FEB’Y 25 1868 APRIL 9 1878/ REISSUED JUNE 17 1879.”
Currently not on view
date made
ca 1878
place made
United States
Physical Description
brass (overall material)
overall: 3 3/8 in x 8 3/8 in; 8.5725 cm x 21.2725 cm
ID Number
accession number
catalog number
Credit Line
Gift of CIGNA Museum and Art Collection
Fire Fighting
See more items in
Home and Community Life: Fire Fighting and Law Enforcement
Cultures & Communities
Firefighting Collection
Fire Engine Plates
Data Source
National Museum of American History


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