Fire Sprinkler: Historic Find on Virginia Eastern Shore

November 7, 2016 | Historic Finds

This fire sprinkler was found in a house on the Virginia Eastern Shore during a renovation. The sprinkler, labeled as “fire alarm-extinguisher”, is only about 6″ tall.  It was found mounted next to an old boiler that was original to the house. The house was built in the 1880s.

This model of sprinkler probably dates to the 1930s based on the patent number stamped on the bracket. Early versions were filled with salt water, but later versions were filled with carbon tetrachloride, which is now classified as a hazardous chemical (if you discover any in your home, be very careful with them!).

The sprinklers were used in one of two ways: 1) the glass “bulb” was picked up out of the bracket and manually thrown at the fire or 2) if the high heat reached the bracket, a spring would release a trigger that would break the bottom seal of the bulb and release the liquid. If you look closely at the label on the top of the bulb (see last picture below), the illustrated “uses” included “squirting”, “sprinkling” and “bombing”.  These extinguishers were also known as “fire grenades” or “fire bombs”.

firesprinkler7 Fire sprinkler, ca. 1930 firesprinkler2 firesprinkler3 firesprinkler5
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