Fire hydrants are important in any community. But they are also kind of funny looking. And with a little imagination they can really be something else!!!  :)))))))  Trivia follows…read-on! 

Recently, out walking with Jackie the other night in the small village I live in, I noticed a whole bunch of new construction improvement projects going on.  New bridges being built, roadways getting resurfaced, condos going up and new hiking paths connecting our beautiful parks to the lakefront.  I also noticed something I never really pay much attention to – someone had repainted all the fire hydrants along the road – all the rust and old paint was gone, now shimmering with a nice navy-blue color on the bottom and a clean white cap on the top.  It got me to look a little closer at the hydrants – and I realized I really didn’t know much about the history or design of these vital city assets. Not much technology here – cast iron pipes with valves, chains and bolts. Although my entire career has been spent working with stuff like this. It’s always fascinating how stuff is made! Back at the ranch I searched the web, I collected some fun information, and uncovered some very cool inventors/designers whose original designs (pretty much what we have today) date back to the early days of our country’s founding.  Special thanks to,, YouTube, and for the info.  Enjoy!

Fun tune while reading

  1. Because I love his name, I would like to be able to share that Birdsill Holly, Jr. (holder of 150 patents, second only to Thomas Edison), is universally recognized as the inventor of the fire hydrant (he was something of a heat expert using steam). But, while the National Inventors Hall of Fame credits him as the inventor of the “modern-day fire hydrant,” the origins of the fire hydrant precede him, dating to the early 19th century in Philadelphia, where engineer Frederick Graff, Sr., may well have designed the first of them.
  2. As far as historians know, Frederick Graff, Sr., Chief Engineer of the Philadelphia Water Works, was the inventor of the fire hydrant. They think he received a patent for his ground-breaking invention in 1801, and suspect he is the person to thank for protecting countless homes and communities from the ravages of an uncontrolled fire. (the reason they don’t know for certain is because the evidence relating to the firefighting technology was destroyed … wait for it … yup, by fire!)
  3. If only this innovative firefighting system had been in operation near the U.S. Patent Office on December 15, 1836, we might not have to wonder about the true inventor of the fire hydrant. On that day, a fire broke out in the building where all U.S. patents were stored. An estimated 9,957 patents were destroyed in the blaze, wiping out official evidence of inventors’ contributions and rights to technological progress, including all records pertaining to the true inventor of the fire hydrant.
  4. The government sought to restore its records. Many patent holders came forward with their copies of the official paperwork, and from those copies, the official records were recreated. Unfortunately, out of the 9,957 patents that were destroyed, only 2,845 were able to be restored. All patents on record from prior to the 1836 fire are officially classified as “X-Patents.”
  5. The deployment of water-containing caldrons for use in firefighting reaches back to ancient China. Using the same approach, scattered cisterns (storage vessels) stored water in colonial American cities to battle blazes. Hollowed wooden logs provided underground main water lines (like the lines we still have today).
  6. The term “fire plug” dates from the time when water mains were made from hollowed out logs. The fire company (usually volunteers) would head out to the fire, dig up the cobbles in the road down to the main water line, then bore a hole into the main so that the excavation would fill with water which they could draft using their pumper. When finished fighting the fire, they’d seal the main with — you guessed it — a “fire plug”. The next time there was a fire in the neighborhood, they’d dig up the plug and not have to cut into the main.
  7. In London, after the Great Fire of 1666, water mains were preemptively equipped with holes and plugs that were accessed above ground. In many places, wood mains gave way cast iron replacements, which began to be outfitted at intervals with branched fittings that drew water from the mains, acting like underground hydrants.
  8. In about 1801, where someone at the Philadelphia Water Works–most likely Frederick Graff, its senior engineer–created the first “post” or “pillar” hydrant, which rose above ground. It was topped with a valve and featured an outlet that acted as a faucet but also could be attached to a hose. Water was always present in its “wet barrel”.  To prevent freezing and bursting in cold climate locales “dry barrel” hydrants were later designed in which the hydrant remained empty until it was necessary to access the water flowing beneath the frost line.
  9. Prior to the invention of the fire hydrant, fight-fighting techniques consisted of maintaining large cauldrons of water in strategic locations near population centers or filling underground tanks with water, both systems entirely dependent on whether sufficient water had been stored up to combat whatever nearby fire might break out. The fire hydrant was revolutionary in that it allowed for a continuous flow of water, guaranteeing that firefighters would not run out before the blaze was fully quenched.
  10. In 1802, the first order for cast iron hydrants was placed with cannon maker company named Foxall & Richards, who used cast iron to make them. In 1803, Frederick Graff Sr. introduced an improved version of the fire hydrant with the valve in the lower portion. These were inserted into wooden mains with a tapering joint. In 1811, Philadelphia claimed to have 230 wooden hydrant pumps and 185 cast iron fire hydrants.  See different barrel designs here
  11. Today, many valves and hydrants are produced by AMERICAN Flow Control, all are provided with 2-D bar codes. Using an app called AFC Mapper, these bar codes can be scanned by an iOS or Android smart phone or tablet. The app works to integrate the information on the AFC 2D barcodes to help water utilities automate mapping functions, locate and manage assets, and improve field operations efficiency.
  12. Using the app, field personnel have quick access to information such as fire hydrant thread specs, or the depth of bury of their hydrant. This information is invaluable in troubleshooting a problem or planning for future changes and/or system expansion.
  13. This information is critical to the utility technician trying to troubleshoot a problem or locate a valve or hydrant. Take for instance, a weather-related event like Hurricane Katrina or Sandy – these storms literally changed the landscape of the affected areas forever. Locating the valve or hydrant and having access to previous records, as well as all of the manufacturing attributes proved to be a real difference-maker during those instances.
  14. Brief History of fire trucks

How They’re Made!!



Me, too.

As you may know the Kowalski Heat Treating logo finds its way
into the visuals of my Friday posts.
I.  Love.  My.  Logo.
One week there could be three logos.
The next week there could be 15 logos.
And sometimes the logo is very small or just a partial logo showing.
But there are always logos in some of the pictures.
So, I challenge you, my beloved readers, to count them and send me a
quick email with the total number of logos in the Friday post.
On the following Tuesday I’ll pick a winner from the correct answers
and send that lucky person some great KHT swag.
So, start counting and good luck!  
Oh, and the logos at the very top header don’t count.
Got it? Good.  :-))))
Have fun!!


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