I have not written much about the great collection of historic vehicles our museums have so periodically I will feature one of our treasures. The Hollywood Museum at Old Fire Station 27 has a very rare aerial ladder truck that is only one of a few left in the country and one that served the Los Angeles Volunteer Fire Department. The Hayes 65 foot Aerial Ladder Truck began service as a Volunteer Company in 1884 known as the Vigilance Hook & Ladder No. 1, located downtown at Aliso and Alameda. In 1886 it became Hook & Ladder Truck No. 1 when the LAFD was formed. In 1893 it was moved to Engine Co. 3 at 410 N. Main St. and in 1896 the name was changed to Truck Co. A. It was relocated again in 1901 to Engine Co. 4 at Aliso near Los Angeles St. where it remained in service until 1904 when the company was closed and the firemen transferred to Water Tower No. 1. On August 25, 1905 the Hayes aerial was sold for $25 to D.F. Donegan, a local contractor and disappeared from history. We do not know much of the history of the Hayes after it left the LAFD, but we do know it appeared in the 1938 movie “In Old Chicago” in a major scene of the Chicago Fire. The origin of this Hayes is still a mystery. It maybe the original LAFD rig or some think it may have come from another west coast fire department. Some say it was used as a prop for the movie studios.
Fortunately for all of us our Hayes Aerial wound up being stored and displayed at Travel Town in Griffith Park. Through City Council action we were able to bring it and other apparatus to our museum – and the rest is history. The Hayes is on our long list of restorations, so if anyone is interested, please let us know.
The following articles appeared in the April 1989 LA Firemen’s Grapevine and can be viewed on LAFIRE.com thanks to Captain Larry Schneider.
Several early models cost the lives of firefighters who scaled their unsafe ladders.
The staff of Travel Town had stared long enough at a building full of antique Los Angeles Fire Department apparatus; in late 1987 we began seriously researching the equipment’s history, with an eye towards putting together an exciting exhibit on the LAFD. Our first step was to ask some LAFD historians to survey our collection and give us the groundwork from which to begin. What those gentlemen told us was a pleasant surprise: all Travel Town’s fire apparatus are important pieces, and the “big lumbering, horsedrawn thing,” previously of unknown origin, is the most significant piece of all. “It’s a Hayes aerial,” we were told. “It was the first successful aerial hook and ladder truck invented – only three were thought to exist – it could be the truck bought in the 1880’s for the L.A. Volunteer Fire Department!”
This truck had sat anonymously at Travel Town for 20 or 30 years, waiting, like the fairy-tale frog prince, for its true identity to be revealed. The task ahead of us was to discover the history of the truck, and the reasons for its importance, and to share that with Travel Town’s visitors. Handicapped by the lack of records on where the truck came from or when it was donated to Travel Town, we had no choice but to begin at the beginning in our research – with the inventor of the truck himself, Daniel D. Hayes.
In 1866, the Amoskeag Company of Manchester, New Hampshire, received an order for five steam-powered fire pumpers from the San Francisco Board of Supervisors – San Francisco was preparing for the inception of their paid fire department. Daniel D. Hayes, a native New Yorker with experience as a volunteer firefighter, was working as a machinist for Amoskeag at the time. He was selected to deliver the steam pumpers and to train San Francisco firefighters in the operation and maintenance of the equipment. This training period lasted several months, and when Hayes was ready to return to New Hampshire, the San Francisco Fire Department offered him the position of Superintendent of Steamers. In December of 1866, he accepted the position and began a 14-year career with the S.F.F.D.
Hayes and his fellow big-city firefighters were faced with a particular challenge: some of the most damaging fires experienced in American cities in the mid-19th century were in multi-story buildings. For many years inventors had tried to develop a hook and ladder truck that would effectively reach the upper levels of contemporary buildings, but initial attempts at aerial ladder trucks were often disastrous. Too heavy or too unstable, these horsedrawn trucks were either unable to reach fires in a timely manner or did not function well at the scene of a fire. In several cases, these early models cost the lives of firefighters who scaled their unsafe ladders. Then, in 1868, Daniel Hayes developed a truck with an aerial ladder that could extend as much as 85 feet in height. Four to six men could fully raise the telescopic ladder in less than 40 seconds by turning a crank. The aerial was mounted on a turntable, so the ladder could be swung around to the desired direction. Hayes had designed, and then built himself, the first practical and safe horsedrawn aerial ladder truck. The truck was named after its inventor: the Hayes Extension Hook and Ladder Truck and Fire Escape.
Hayes sold his first truck to the S.F.F.D. a year later, in 1869 for $3,000. But Chief Whitney, of the S.F.F.D., was skeptical as to the effectiveness of the truck and refused to use it in actual service. His was a typical sentiment; after a disaster in New York where several firefighters were killed in a demonstration of an aerial hook and ladder truck, few chiefs were willing to risk lives on an unknown truck. It wasn’t until Independence Day, 1871, that Hayes was able to prove the value of his invention.
A local fire department was a popular entry in any civic parade, and the San Francisco Fire Department brought out a full contingent of equipment, including the Hayes Aerial, for July 4th, 1871 celebrations. During the parade, a fire alarm was sounded from Box 17. According to one version of the story, Hayes saw this as the opportunity to prove the worth of his aerial hook and ladder truck. He jumped into the driver’s seat, raced the horses to the burning multi-story building, and proceeded to operate the aerial ladder with great proficiency. So effective and dramatic was his display that the department was finally convinced that the Hayes aerial hook and ladder could serve the S.F.F.D. well. A less dramatic, but probably more accurate, account claims that a new S.F.F.D. fire chief decided to use the Hayes truck simply because it was already out of the station to be in the parade. This fire chief found the innovative aerial hook and ladder very useful in fighting the blaze and was willing to allow it into regular service.
Using local manufacturers, Hayes produced trucks for sale to the S.F.F.D. and other West Coast fire departments. But demand increased as word of the practicality and reliability of Hayes’ aerial ladder truck design spread across the U.S. In 1884, Hayes sold his patent to the New York-based LaFrance Company (soon to become American La-France). A number of sizes were developed to meet the distinctive needs of various cities’ fire departments; models ranged from a “first class” truck with an 85 foot extension ladder to the small “fourth class” truck featuring a 40 or 45 foot extension ladder. Hayes also continued to build trucks in his own shop in Oakland. By the early years of the 20th century, when new advancements in technology made the original Hayes aerial design obsolete, more than 20 Hayes-design trucks had been sold.
Firefighting Techniques Revolutionized By Hayes Truck
By James H. Pierce, the great-great grandson of Daniel Dennis Hayes
Many improvements made in the science of fighting fire have come as a result of the efforts of the firemen themselves. One such fireman was Daniel Dennis Hayes of the San Francisco paid-Fire Department. His ingenuity as a firefighter and inventor came forth with the invention of his now famous Hayes Hook and Ladder carriage in the 1860s.
Hayes, a former New York City fireman and the then current Superintendent of Steamers of the San Francisco Fire Department, conceived an idea for an extension ladder mounted on a wagon. In 1868, he completed the construction on his Hook and Ladder carriage. The Hayes truck was a horse drawn carriage with an extension ladder mounted on the bed of the carriage. The ladder could be raised by a crank on the side through a system of pulleys, enabling firefighters to raise the ladder to upper stories of building quickly and safely.
When the Hayes truck arrived in San Francisco a problem soon became evident. On many of the city’s narrow streets, the overhead wire would not allow the extension ladder on the carriage to be raised. Hayes soon solved this problem with the invention of the ground extension ladder. The smaller ladder could be raised by two men from a sidewalk. The ladder, which was actually two ladders together, could be extended to twice its normal length by a rope and pulley system.
While both the ground extension ladder and the Hayes truck proved to be effective, Chief Engineer Whitney of the San Francisco Fire department was still not convinced of the practicality of the Hayes Truck. He stated, “It cannot be expected that an apparatus so unwieldy and cumbersome can perform other duties then that of a ‘fire escape.’” However others said the same company of men operating the Hook and Ladder trucks could operate the Hayes Truck and service portions of the city where hotels and warehouses were located. Also, they hoped it would increase the usefulness of the Hook and Ladder branch of the fire department.
In 1871 a fire struck the Harpending Building and the disastrous failures of the ladders in use at the time stirred up a storm of indignation at the ineffectiveness of the equipment of the fire department. The press and public strongly urged another trial of the Hayes truck.
On the fourth of July, the Hayes Truck took part in San Francisco’s annual Independence Day Parade. During the parade a fire broke out at the Whitcomb Hotel on Washington Street. The new Chief Engineer ordered the Hayes Truck onto action. Hayes took personal charge of his truck and at the fire demonstrated beyond a shadow of a doubt the superior performance of his apparatus with the quick containment of the fire and the rescue of people trapped by the fire.
The Hayes truck had proven to be a great asset and had gathered a great deal of respect from the men who manned her. Chief Scannell stated, “The Hayes’ Patent Hook and Ladder carriage of the department will supply a want long felt by officers and men. To wit: the means of reaching the upper floors of large building without delay.” By the year 1873, it was evident a second Hayes truck was needed in the ever growing city. Chief Scannell recommended to the Board of Supervisors that a second Hook and Ladder company using the Hayes truck be formed. The Board of Supervisors agreed and authorized the purchase of second Hayes Truck.
Word of the effectiveness of the Hayes Truck spread rapidly and by 1900, less then forty years after its invention, over 290 Hayes Trucks were in service in the United States. The fame of the Hayes truck became world-wide when Captain of the London Fire Department saw one of the trucks in action and was so impressed with its effectiveness that he purchased one for the London Fire Department.
Hayes had recognized a problem faced by firemen the world over of quickly getting to upper floors for rescue work and firefighting. Hayes solved the problem with his truck which has been responsible for saving countless lives and reducing property damage. Daniel Hayes died in 1920, but his memory lives on in his invention. There are few fire departments today which do not use a descendent of the Hayes Hook and Ladder Truck or a ground extension ladder invented by Mr. Daniel Dennis Hayes.
Note: Some years ago James Pierce came to our museum just to see our Hayes Aerial and tell us about his Great Great Grandfather. Other Hayes family members have visited us also to see the rig.
Daniel Hayes Proposes His Truck to the LAFD
The lengthy process of purchasing the Los Angeles Volunteer Fire Department’s Hayes aerial was recorded in painstaking longhand in the minutes of various Los Angeles City Council meetings. On January 28, 1884, Daniel D. Hayes’ proposal for the manufacture of a 2nd class Hayes Hook and Ladder Truck was read into the minutes of the City Council.
The following proposal was opened and read:
We hereby propose and agree to manufacture for your city, and ship the same within sixty days after receipt of your acceptance of this proposition one 2nd Class Hayes Extension Ladder Truck and Fire Escape said Fire Truck to be built in accordance with the following specifications as regards equipment dimensions, material, finish, etc. to wit:
It shall carry ladders of the following dimensions, vis.
• One Hayes Patent Extension Ladder to elevate sixty five feet from the ground, the main ladder in which shall be 34 feet long, and the extension 32 feet long.
• One ladder 28 ft,, One ladder 26 ft., One ladder 24 ft., One ladder 18 ft., One ladder 16 ft. (roof)
The 28, 26 and 24 ft. ladders shall be carried on rollers and the 28 and 22 ft. ladders to be arranged for splicing, making a ladder 46 ft. long and the 20, 18, and 16 to “nest in.” The Truck shall be supplied with the following appliances, to wit,
• 2 short handled hooks, 2 long handled hooks,1 chair hook ,2 crouch poles
• 2 steel crow bars,4 fire axes (with Pipe heads),4 pitch forks,4 leather fire buckets
• 175 ft. of Manila Rope with tackle and swatch block for hoisting hose,1 oil can
• 2 brass hand lanterns,1 bell or gong
• All necessary wrenches, spanners and tools for working the truck will also be supplied. The “Leaders” of the frame and ladders shall be built of best quality Oregon Pine, free from knots.
The Truck shall be mounted on Platform Sprints over forward axle, and two full elliptic springs over hind axle made of best quality spring steel, the running gear, braces, rods, and etc to be carefully forged from the best quality of Norway and Ulster iron. The axles to be made of best quality of Ulster iron. The wheels to be made of selected and seasoned timber and tired with the best quality of Tire Iron. Hind wheels four feet in diameter; to have brass caps over the ends of hubs, and to be handsomely painted and striped with gold leaf. The brake lever shall be arranged to be operated by driver’s foot, and the hind gear operated by hand wheel Tiller, horse tongue, and whiffle trees, to be made of seasoned second growth ash or hickory and handsomely painted and striped with gold leaf. The Truck complete shall be built in a substantial and workmanlike manner, be handsomely painted and ornamented with gold striping and scroll work with name and etc. as ordered.
It shall be delivered within the time hereintofore specified at Los Angeles, Cal. for the sum of twenty seven hundred and fifty dollars.
P.S. Or will deliver at San Pedro for twenty five hundred and fifty dollars, and at San Francisco for twenty five hundred dollars.
• Which proposal was referred to the Committee on Fire and Water.
The proposal was accepted, and on June 2, 1884, the truck was delivered to and accepted by the City Council.