The History of Hoose, Hoase, Hause, or Hose?

As early as 400 B.C. hose played a part in fighting fire. In this era, the hose was made out of ox gut. Firemen filled bags with water and then forced them into the ox gut. The water was forced out of these early hoses by either sitting or stomping on the bag and the hose.
In 1673, two Dutchmen, Jan van der Heiden and his son Nicolaas developed fire “hoase.” These 50-foot lengths of leather tubes were sewn together the way shoemakers made boots. This hose was attached to the gooseneck nozzles on early engines, enabling firefighters to get closer to the fire and shoot a stream of water at it more accurately. Van der Heiden is also credited with inventing an early version of suction hose.

Until about 1800, water for fighting fires came from wells, cisterns and natural bodies of water. When water main services came into existence, fireplugs or hydrants were added to give fire companies access to the water.

In 1803, the Philadelphia Hose Company was founded. Arriving at their first fire, they astonished their fellow firefighters.... Collins quotes: “The new hose company quickly attached their leather hose to the hydrant and stretched it right up to the burning building. A nozzle was attached to the hose and water gushed through the line.” A foreman of a fire company came up to Ruben Haines, the hose company foreman, and adamantly demanded Haines divert the water to the engine where it would then be directed onto the fire. Haines refused, he saw no reason to send the water from the hydrant to the engine first.

Sewn leather hoses often leaked badly and broke under pressure. In 1807, two members of the Philadelphia Hose Company, James Sellers and Abraham Pennock revolutionized fire hose when they developed a way to rivet leather strips together. The hoses were made of the thickest and best rear-quarter cowhides. They were nearly leak-proof except at the couplings. The riveted hoses were 40 to 50 feet in length and had metal couplings. They weighed about 85 pounds.

Leather hose required heavy maintenance. It was necessary to wash, dry and preserve it. One fire company washed theirs in a coffin. Some used codfish & whale oil as preservatives. Many other stations used warm beef tallow and Neat’s foot oil (made from cattle bones) and would work it into the leather. However, after applying the tallow and oil, the heat of a fire caused the hose to smell and become sticky. One station stored their hose in a dill-pickle barrel but many others used horizontal racks to store theirs.

Sellers & Pennock’s advancement with hose had far reaching consequences. With strong hose, it was possible to use suction to draw large quantities of water. The idea of using suction was considered in the United States as early as 1698. New York City had a suction engine in 1793. But without reliable hose using suction to fight fires was very ineffective. The improvement in hose also permitted pumpers to relay water from distant sources. In Boston, in 1825, the mayor reported 100 feet of hose doing the work that formerly required 60 men hauling buckets. Around 1827, the Fire Chief for New York City counted 30 pumpers in a line a mile and a half long from the source of water to the fire.

In 1821, James Boyd patented his invention for rubber-lined, cotton-webbed fire hose. Charles Goodyear discovered the vulcanization process for rubber in 1839. B. F. Goodrich developed rubber hose reinforced with cotton ply. The Cincinnati Fire Department used this improved hose in 1871.

As more manufacturers entered the marketplace, they each produced their own size of hose and coupling. This problem was addressed in 1873 at the first convention for the International Association of Fire Engineers. The Association adopted the standard size of 7102 threads to the inch.

Five years later in 1878, the American Fire Hose Manufacturing Company, located in Chelsea, Massachusetts marketed their new product, the “first seamless cotton fire hose produced for steam fire engines.” Other companies improved hose as well. In a short time fire hose could handle 350 psi. Progress continued and woven cotton became the standard for fire hose. As better weaves were developed the hose became stronger. In this modern age fire hose is lightweight, durable and flexible.

This invaluable tool for firefighting has undergone dramatic changes over the centuries. What improvements will firefighters of the future see?

Collins, Donald. Our Volunteer Firemen, 1736-1882. Ephrata, PA: Science Press, 1982.
Ditzel, Paul C. Fire Engines, Firefighters: the Men, Equipment, and Machines, from Colonial Days to the Present. New York: Crown, 1976.
Hashagen, Paul. “The Development of Fire Hose.” Firehouse Magazine: September 1998.
Smith, Dennis. Dennis Smith’s History of Firefighting in America: 300 years. New York: Dial, 1978.