Toenjes Firefighting Apparatus

The men of the 6th Brigade of the Woodbury Fire Department were lucky to count amongst their number one Willhelm Thomas Toenjes.

The son of an engineer, Toenjes was an inveterate tinkerer from an early age, even dismantling the family automobile one rainy afternoon aged only seven. Upon joining the Fire Department in 1868, he became keen to apply his skills to his new profession and a number of innovations from the Toenjes family workshop were tested in various emergencies.

The most successful of Willhelm's developments (and without doubt the most famous) was the Firefighting Apparatus, pictured above. This mechanised perambulator, featuring a large reservoir of water attached to a steam compression cell, allowed firefighters to tackle blazes in buildings of up to three stories in height.

The many lives saved in Woodbury by Toenjes and his colleagues using the Apparatus soon brought the attention of the national press. A campaign was launched by the New York Times, demanding that all Fire Departments in the United States be equiped with Toenjes' invention.

Soon the Apparatus became a common sight across America, with adapted versions of the equipment seeing use with other emergency services (including, surprisingly, the Coast Guard).

Interested readers are invited to view further photographic images of the Firefighting Apparatus with Willhelm Thomas Toenjes at the controls.