Perry’s slowly evolving Iowa Fire Museum and Fire Prevention Education Center added a new piece to its collection last week with the installation of an 1890 Howe hand-pumper acquired from the DeSoto Fire Department.
Brian Eiteman of Perry, founder and director of the fire museum, said the 125-year-old hand-pumper is all original, with only the trappings for horse-drawn transport replaced by a modern hitch in front. He said it is on permanent loan from the DeSoto Fire Department in an agreement to be renewed every 15 years.
A similar loan arrangement was made for the museum’s 1929 firetruck with the city of Ottosen, Iowa, Eiteman said. The vintage firetruck, long the centerpeice of the collection, last saw action in a 1996 parade. It will now have an older companion in the 1890 Howe hand-pumper.
The hand-pumper was originally drawn by horses and pumped by humans, Eiteman said, with pistons on each side of a cylindrical bulb forcing pressurized water through the hose. He said the leather in the bulb was recently replaced so the pump works as good as new.
“We’ll set it up on July 4 and let people pump it themselves,” Eiteman said. “It will be a great fundraiser.”
With 130 years of fire fighting experience in the Eiteman family–Brian’s father, Frank Eiteman, is the former chief of the Perry Volunteer Fire Department, and Brian is now the department’s assistant fire chief–he said the creation of the Iowa Fire Museum and Fire Prevention Education Center has been “a labor of love.”
It is also a monument to the history of Perry’s firefighters and to the large role that fires have played in the city’s development. Eiteman has amassed about 4,000 photographs of firefighting history and has a virtually complete archive of minutes of the Perry Volunteer Fire Department’s meetings, extending all the way back to 1878.
He also has ambitions to erect a 40-by-100-foot building to house a reproduction of the fascia from Perry’s former fire station, which was demolished in 1979 to make way for a parking lot for the Brenton Bank, now Wells Fargo.
Eiteman said he was 9 when the old fire station was torn down, and he has fond memories of playing hide-and-seek in the building that once stood at the northeast corner of First Avenue and Warford Street.
For more information, contact the Iowa Fire Museum and Fire Prevention Education Center, 1120 Second St. in Perry, 515-865-0922.