Exhibits

Memorial Wall

The Fire Museum Plaza and Memorial Wall - On the outside wall of the museum is an impressive, high relief brick sculpture, twenty two feet high and twenty five feet wide, which is dedicated to all the Memphis fire fighters who have lost their lives while fighting a fire. The larger part of the sculpture is an image of several fire fighters carrying an injured comrade from a fire. 53 names carved in stone, the names of every fire fighter killed in the line of duty in Memphis since 1880, grace the wall of the memorial in remembrance of their sacrifice.  View More...


Building I Exhibits

SNOWDEN BUILDING

Fire Helmets - Different types of fire helmets used from different periods of time, styles of helmets and from different parts of the country.

Display Case - Contains obsolete gas masks dating to World War I and examples of American and European firefighter helmets.  Reproductions of antique fire truck toys made of cast iron.  Firefighting tools and sirens no longer in use.

Helmets and Pump Can Extinguishers - Thousands old these blue pump cans were distributed to civilians by Civil Defense authorities during World War II in case of a bombing.  Combination hose clamp and door opener.  Various types of firefighter helmets.  Two and a half gallon water pump can.  The display case also contains different types of badges that have been used by the MFD as well as different styles of Class A Uniform hats.

The Hale Water Tower (Built in 1897) - This historically significant, rare piece of equipment is a source of great pride to the Memphis Fire Department. As Memphis began to grow into a metropolitan area after the Civil War, high rise buildings began to appear downtown. The difficulties in fighting fires in buildings that were several stories high made it necessary for the Memphis Fire Department to find newer and more effective equipment to fight those fires. The water tower was a forerunner for the aerial fire trucks that are used today. Originally name the Jeptha M. Fowlkes, after a local city official of the time, the water tower was purchased by the City of Memphis in 1897, and it was originally horse drawn.  The large tower on the back of the vehicle could be raised by water pressure to extend to its full height and the nozzle on top would spray water onto the fire.  The water tower was later named the E.W. Hale, and over the years it has been modified many times to improve its efficiency. After horses were phased out of the department in 1919, a motorized tractor was added to pull the tower. Other modifications include adding hydraulics to lift the tower upright. The water tower was officially listed as an active piece of equipment in the Memphis Fire department until 1978, when it was retied, and it played an active role in fighting nearly every major fire in Memphis during its 81 year history. The Memphis Fire Department shop fully restored the water tower for display in the museum. 

Smoke Alarms Save Lives - Exhibit that shows smoke alarms and reminds people to check smoke detectors once a month and change batteries twice a year.

Fire Extinguisher Display Case - Contains numerous types of fire extinguishers used throughout the years.  Some of these extinguishers contained baking soda while others contained chemicals which were harmful to people.

Log Book and Leather Fire Helmet Display Case - Contains a log book dated 1899 that was used to record information from each call received by the Memphis Fire Dept.  The leather helmet is one that was used by the Boston Fire Dept. The display case also contains badges used by the Memphis Fire Department in the early 1900's.

Memphis Firefighters at Work Painting - This painting depicting Memphis firefighters at work was painted by Diane Hoffman and donated to the Museum.

Modern Firefighters at Work Picture - A picture of modern firefighters on a hose line extinguishing a fire.  Modern turnouts weigh about 50 pounds including helmet and mask; the SCBA air tank can weigh an additional 45 pounds.

Firefighters at Work in the Early 1950's Picture - Picture showing Memphis firefighters in the 1950’s extinguishing a fire.  They are wearing aluminum fire helmets, heavy cotton cloth turnouts coated with rubber and hip boots.

First Twelve African-American Firefighters Picture - Picture of the first 12 African-American Firefighters hired by the Memphis Fire Department in 1955.

Fire Chief’s Desk - This elaborately hand carved wooden desk dates back to 1849, in the days when Memphis was served by independent volunteer fire companies. The desk probably belonged to a prominent citizen who also served as the leader of a volunteer fire company.  The desk is hand carved with firefighting symbols, such as ladders, pike poles and traditional fire fighter’s trumpets. Although this desk obviously belonged to a high ranking fireman and probably would have been in a private office, it has been placed in the museum as a reminder that every fire station had a watch deck near the front door which was manned 24 hours a day. The man at the desk had to monitor any incoming fire calls and be prepared to sound the alarm. He might also have to patrol the area near the station, which in the days before telephones or alarm boxes involved stepping outside every 15-30 minutes and looking for smoke or flames.

 Grandfather Clock - Made in 1857 and bought by the Memphis Fire Dept. in 1859.  This clock tells time from three separate dials and is operated by weights.  It still keeps virtually perfect time today.

For the Love of a Brother Sculpture - A metal sculpture donated by Fire Station #10 to honor Lt. Trent Kirk and Private Charles Zachary who were killed fighting the Family Dollar Store Fire on June 15, 2003.

You Can Count on Me Painting - A painting by Floyd Newsom Jr., recognizing the professional dedication and excellence of African-American Firefighters in Memphis over the years.

1929 American LaFrance Pumper - This piece of equipment is a good example of a motorized engine from the late twenties and thirties. This pumper was fully restored by the Memphis Fire Department Shop for the museum.

Fire Brigade Bucket - These types of buckets were used before pumps were available especially in cotton warehouses.  The conical shape had several advantages and also discourages the taking of them for other uses.

Leaders of the Memphis Fire Department - Pictures of the men who were Chiefs and later Fire Directors of the Memphis Fire Department from 1882- Present.

Chief Helmet and Parade Belt - The Display Case contains a Leather Fire Helmet and Parade Belt presented to Memphis Fire Chief William Kehoe on May 7, 1869.

Athletic Trophies and Pictures - This display case contains items won over the years by athletic teams made up of firefighters from the Memphis Fire Department.

9-1-1 Safety Theater - The 9-1-1 Safety Theater allows one to pull a vintage fire alarm and see how the message was relayed to the central station via telegraph machine years ago.  Kids have an opportunity to call 9-1-1 on a practice phone and wall graphics give a picture history of the 9-1-1 System in the United States.  A 70-inch video monitor shows age appropriate videos about 9-1-1 and fire safety.

Toys on Fire Exhibit - The Chief William Schwartz Collection contains fire service toys and memorabilia collected by Chief Schwartz from 1920-2003.  Over 1,000 toys and artifacts are displayed from the collection.

(Coming Attraction:  "Honoring our Heroes"- by creator Darrell Lynn, honoring the 343 FDNY Firefighters killed at the World Trade Center on 9-11-01.)

Fire Museum Gift Shop - A large selection of souvenirs and specialty items for the firefighter big and small. 


Building II Exhibits (First Level)

Engine House #1 (First Level)

1865 Fire Alarm Bell - Before the days of telephones and electronic alarm, a fire was signaled by the clear resounding tones of a bell rung b hand. This beautiful bell, created for the Memphis Fire Department in 1865, swung in the bell tower of old fire headquarters on Front Street until 1921, when it was rung one last time and firemen had to run for cover as the bell tower cracked, wobbled and nearly collapsed. The bell moved to a lot behind the fire station until 1929, when a local junk dealer offered to buy it and melt it down. Fortunately, the firemen would not allow it to be destroyed and a new scaffold was erected for it in front of Fire Headquarters, where its beautiful tones could be heard again. The bell’s silver sheen and gorgeous deep tone is due, according to local history, to 500 silver dollars melted into the iron casting.

Ol' Billy - Ol' Billy is a life sized, animatronic horse who gestures, blinks and talks with an amazing number of lifelike movements. Billy introduces the visitor to the museum by telling the history of the Memphis Fire Department during the era of horse drawn fire equipment (1860 - 1919) straight from the horse's mouth.  A video showing historic firefighting footage and photographs accompanies Billy as he tells his story. Billy also orients visitors to the museum by welcoming them and explaining other exhibits that are available. 

1910 E.H. Crump Steamer - This horse drawn steam pumper was one of the last pieces of horse drawn fire equipment in the City of Memphis. It was purchased in 1910 by one of Memphis’s most well-known public figures, Mayor E.H. Crump. The steamer was active in the fire department until 1918, when all horse drawn equipment in Memphis was replaced by motorized equipment. The steamer was then purchased by entrepreneur William F. Burns in the 1920’s and it was used to pump water out of flooded basements. Burns later completely restored the vehicle and it was donated back to the city of Memphis after his death. In 144, the City commissioned two, life-sized paper-mache’ horse from a local to be displayed with the steamer in a new exhibit at the Overton Park Zoo. The steamer and horses were displayed in a museum run by the Memphis Fire Department, (1962-1974) and then placed on loan to the Memphis Pink Palace until 1984. In 1976 a special demonstration at the Pink Palace proved that the old pumper was still functional. 

1912 R.A. Utley American LaFrance Pumper - In 1912, the Memphis Fire Department purchased its first motorized fire engine, a motor driven pumper built by the American LaFrance Fire Engine Company in Elmira, New York. Named for Memphis City Commissioner R.A. Utley, the pumper was equipped with a six cylinder motor and a pump which could output 700 gallons of water per minute. The Utley carried both, a water pump and hoses, two ladders, several hand fire extinguishers and tools.  The motor was started by a hand crank, and the headlights were powered with acetylene gas as the engine had no electrical system. The Utley served the Memphis Fire Department until the 1930’s, when it was rebuilt and refitted with new equipment. It remained in active service until at least 1943, and it was restored to its original condition by the Memphis Fire Department Shop in 1960.?

Replica of "Little Vigor" - "Little Vigor" was the name given to Memphis' first fire engine, a piece of equipment with a proud and colorful history. The small hand pulled engine, about 3 feet high and requiring 8 men to operate it, was purchased in Cincinnatian 1830 by Memphis City Alderman George Aldred. Little Vigor had a dubious beginning, for at its first triumphant demonstration to the citizens of Memphis, a group of rowdy and inebriated “operators” of the engine sprayed gallons of muddy water onto the crowd of onlookers, then began pulling the engine through the streets. The men lost control of it as they paraded down a hill, and the engine ran over Alderman Aldred, nearly killing him. Little Vigor served the city for 9 years, although it was not always successful at putting out fires, due mostly to the inadequate water supply in the city and the difficulty of pulling the engine through Memphis’ notoriously unpaved streets. In another infamous incident, the Little Vigor was used in a “vigilante” action, when volunteer firemen filled the engine with lampblack and soapsuds and used it to “wash” out a local brothel. This engine is a replica of the "Little Vigor" created by Memphis Firefighters at Station 16 in 1974, as the original no longer exists.

The Benefactors Brigade Wall- This special wall lists the names of the individuals and organizations that made a significant contribution to the Fire Museum.

Firefighter Mannequin on Sliding Pole- This illustrates how firefighters descended from their sleeping quarters to the apparatus floor in two story fire stations.

The Status Board- The Status Board came from old Fire Station No. 6 at Third Street and Looney Avenue.  The purpose of the board was to keep firefighters aware of the status of other fire engine companies in the city.  Behind each of the numbered cut-outs was a small light bulb.  When the particular engine company went on a call the watchman at Station 6 would turn on their light.  “Lights on” meant “unavailable” and “lights off” meant “available”.  This was important for firefighters to know because it gave them an idea of how much territory they had to protect.  If the next engine company over was out on a call, Engine 6 knew they had to cover additional territory. 

Snorkel Basket Simulator - Gives a simulated experience of riding up in a snorkel basket and trying to extinguish a fire. This exhibit helps children develop an insight on how fire fighters actually put out fires.

Fire Truck - A 1967 LaFrance Pumper that children can actually get in and play "fire fighter." It is equipped with child-sized turnouts.

E-One Cab - This is a portion of a real fire engine, built to the same specifications as those currently used by the Memphis Fire Department. Children can also act out the role of fire fighter.

EMS Paramedic Ambulance - This is the actual part of an ambulance that is used to treat and transport patients to area hospitals. It is fully equipped and includes a video with related information.

(The Guardsmark Play Area which includes the Snorkel Simulator Game, Fire Truck, E-One Cab, and EMS Paramedic Ambulance is being upgraded with a completion date of November 2014)


Building II Exhibits (Second Level)

Engine House #1 (Second Level)

Room 1

Replica of Fire Fighter Rescuing Child - This mannequin of a fire fighter in full turnouts, rescuing a child allows children to see what a fire fighter actually looks like when he goes out to fight for a fire. It also shows that fire fighters are community helpers and children should not be afraid of them.  

Red Door Fund Video - This video recognizes each of the fire fighters and other employees who contributed funds in support of the Fire Museum of Memphis.

Great Fires of Memphis Video and Pictures - Gives detailed information on all the city's major fires.

Arson and Firesetters Videos - Gives information on arson and firesetting and allows children to see the consequences that can result from fireplay.

Black Fire fighters Video - Personal interviews and information on what it was like being in the first class of black fire fighters.

Historical Artifacts - Badges, journals and other articles used by fire fighters in earlier years.

Room 2

Model of Firehouse #1 - This is a 1/2 inch scale model of Fire House No. 1 as it appeared in 1910. Children will gain insight on exactly what a firehouse looked like in the early years of fire fighting in Memphis.  

Fallen Fire fighters Video - This interactive video allows children to learn more about each of the individual fire fighters who lost their lives in the line of duty.

Antique Lockers with Fire fighter Uniforms - Some of Fire House No. 1's original lockers containing various articles of fire fighter uniforms from earlier years.

Room 3

Fire Safety House - This is a layout of a bedroom, bathroom, kitchen and living room containing fire hazards that are highlighted and explained by a video that is located in each room.

The Escape Maze - This allows children the opportunity to learn and practice how to get out of a house when there is a fire.

The Fire Room - This room allows children to actually experience what it feels like to be in a burning house.

Fire Safety Arcade - Newly upgraded through a 2011 FEMA Fire Prevention and Safety Grant, the Fire Safety Arcade houses eight kiosks with age appropriate data driven games for children to test their fire and life safety skills.  The data received during scheduled school tours will be gathered to assist museum and area fire departments in their Public Education efforts.

(The Fire Safety House, Escape maze and Fire Room are undergoing upgrades which will be completed late August 2014.)

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