The museum’s historic fire apparatus and displays of artifacts and photographs reflect the evolution of firefighting technology from the bucket brigades to steam powered fire engines. Artifacts displayed from the museum’s collections, as well as items loaned from the collections of the Nevada Historical Society, Nevada State Museum and Warren Engine Company No. 1 in Carson City, include the colorful uniform shirts, ornate leather belts and leather helmets worn by firefighters in Virginia City, Gold Hill and other Nevada communities. And, several of the historic fire apparatus on display have also had parts in such movies as In Old Chicago (1937), the Santa Fe Trail (1940), The Harvey Girls (1946), The Man Behind The Gun (1953), Hangover Square (1946) and The Richest Place on Earth (1978).
Fire Apparatus On Display
1839 Christian Hight four-wheel hand-drawn hose carriage (Nevada’s oldest and longest serving fire apparatus)
1856 Lysander Button & Co. hand-drawn hand-pumped fire engine ✩
ca. 1870 two-wheel hand-drawn hose cart
ca. 1874 two-wheel hand-drawn hose cart
1877 Kimball & Co. four-wheel horse-drawn hose carriage
1879 Button & Son four-wheel hand-drawn hose carriage ✩
ca. 1879 Clapp & Jones steam powered fire engine ✩
ca. 1880 Rumsey & Co. hand-drawn hand-pumped fire engine ✩
ca. 1910 industrial fire brigade hose cart
(The ✩ symbol denotes our movie stars)
The museum also features a collection of antique cast iron and other fire toys donated by the late Chris Tyndall, the last fire chief of the Stewart Indian School (1890-1980) Fire Department in Carson City. The first superintendent of the school was W.D.C. Gibson, who also served as chief of the Gold Hill Fire Department in 1867 and 1869. Gibson’s chief’s helmet shield is among some of the artifacts also displayed in the museum from the collections of the Nevada Historical Society, Nevada State Museum and Warren Engine Company No. 1.
The William R. Black Collection
A portion of the extensive William R. Black Collection, donated by the Harmon Family of Reno, is displayed and features tools, emergency lights and sirens, uniform insignia, carbon tetrachloride and other types of fire extinguishers, nozzles and nozzle tips, hose adaptors and fittings and other equipment the late Mr. Black sold to fire departments and businesses throughout Northern Nevada from his Reno-based Nevada Fire Extinguisher Service.
William R. Black (1900-1983) owned and operated the Nevada Fire Extinguisher Service on Plumas Street in Reno from 1925-1971, serving the fire protection needs of homes, commercial entities and fire departments in Nevada and Northern California. At one time Mr. Black developed his own brick construction business in Reno, and following service in the Army in World War I, served four years as a CWA engineer, and later as an assistant engineer at the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) Mill Camp at Battle Mountain, NV, while also running his Nevada Fire Extinguisher Service. In 1936 he developed the business into a full-scale operation for local volunteer and career fire departments and industrial fire brigades with offices and a small warehouse at his Plumas Street address. Mr. Black was active in the community serving as secretary of the Nevada Selective Service Appeal Board, as a member of the Civil Defense Board, and a member of the American Legion, Kerak Shrine, Lions Club, Masonic Temple and Elks Lodge.
Future Plans For The Museum
Future plans call for an expansion of the Comstock Firemen’s Collection to display other artifacts and fire apparatus that are currently in storage that include:
Circa 1870 hand-drawn ladder wagon (manufacturer unknown)
1929 Chevrolet pumper (Virginia City’s first motorized apparatus)
1939 Mack pumper (Virginia City/Ex-Carson City)
1940 Ford hosewagon (Virginia City)
1942 Dodge/Darley pumper (on loan from the Nevada Division of Forestry)
1959 International Storey County-Virginia City ambulance
2 circa 1870 large two-wheel hand-drawn hose carts