Handtub Junction, USA

Handtub of the Month

May 1999

White Angel  -   Salem, MA.

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The White Angel was built by the American Fire Engine Company of Seneca Falls, New York in 1894 and delivered to Salem, Massachusetts Veteran Firemen's Association on August 17 of that same year. The engine was expressly built for muster competition and was one of only a few such engines to carry that distinction. Because of engines such as the White Angel the New England States Veteran Fireman's League adopted a rule limiting competition to engines built prior to January 1, 1896. Although built by the AFEC the engine proudly carried the last Button serial number of #746. The American Fire Engine Company was a consolidation of a number of fire engine manufacturers of the late 19th century including L. Button of Waterford, N.Y., Silsby of Seneca Falls, N.Y., Ahrens of Cincinnati, Ohio and Clapp & Jones of Hudson, N.Y. The engine has 10" cylinders and is the second engine to carry the name White Angel, the first being a 9" Button engine #378 built in 1855 also for the Salem, MA. area. The engine has won over $10,000* in the approximately 160* musters it has attended.

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Some claim that the White Angel was never officially named. A newspaper account from the early part of the 20th century reads as follows:
Its name, "White Angel" is not it's official title. It never had an official name. When it arrived in the Witch City some of the veterans looked upon it as an angel, and it's color, white, furnished the rest for the nick-name of "White Angel," by which it has always been known." Some muster historians dispute this account saying it is more likely named for a long forgotten early sailing vessel or possibly in honor of the first engine to carry the name.

Regardless of the naming it did not take long for the Salem Vets and foreman Capt. Robert E. Pollock to put the engine to work. Just 17 days after receiving their new machine they competed and won a muster in nearby Essex, Massachusetts beating out 8 other contestants. One must wonder how the crew of the White Angel felt while winning the muster, but only by a matter of inches over  2nd, 3rd and 4th place. The White Angel would be a regular competitor on the New England muster circuit over the next 4 decades and would take it's place among some of the greatest engines ever to muster. The White Angel is one of the most powerful machines never to win the New England League Championship although it was runner-up on several occasions.

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During this time a great rivalry developed between the White Angel and  the Okommakamesit of nearby Marblehead, Ma. The Oko's came into Salem in 1903 and won the League crown, which could only have caused tremendous disappointment and shame for the host and hometown favorite White Angel. In 1917 a playoff was started between the 2 powerful engines with the prize being cash and a beautiful Silver trophy called the Sirosis Cup and  sponsored by the A.E. Little Co.  The cup was retired after several contests by the Oko's on Sept 2, 1920 at a playoff held at Blubber Hollow, Salem, MA. The Marblehead engine easily outdistanced the White Angel's 226' stream with an impressive 247' 7 1/4". The cup to this day remains in the Oko's possession a wonderful reminder of the glory days of the hand engine muster.

With the coming of the Depression, the number of musters being held each year were declining considerably. No Annual League Tournament was held in 1933 nor again in 1939. In 1941 the White Angel was sold to the Everett, Ma. VFA. The Everett Vets competed in one muster as the White Angel and before they could really get the engine working, war broke out and hand engine musters along with many other American pastimes came to a screeching halt. While the engines of the N.E. League sat idle for 4 years while war raged around the world, they also stood ready. At the Annual Meeting of the league held on May 1, 1941 in Everett, Ma. "Fire Chief Evans recommended to League Representatives that hand engines be maintained ready to assist in case of any bombings  a result of World War Two"

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When hand engine musters resumed following World War 2 the White Angel's name was changed to Capt. HuntIt appears that the engine only attended a couple of musters with it's new name and never really performed as it once did previous to WW2.   According to records it attended it's last muster as the Capt. Hunt on September 10, 1949 at Everett, Ma finishing 16th of 18 machines. In 1952 the engine was sold to a party in Amesbury, Ma. where it currently is today in unknown condition.

*a quick tally of the muster records in the HJUSA Archives shows a total muster winnings of $10,605 and 163 musters attended. These numbers are close but not exact and could vary +/- 5%.

Handtub Junction, USA would like to thank Ed Tufts of Salem, MA, Earl Doliber of Danvers, Ma. and John Crosby of Marblehead, MA. for their contributions of much of the information in this month piece.

If anyone as anything that they would like to add or has any photo's of the White Angel they would like to see on here, please email me or mail it to:

Handtub Junction, USA,  PO Box 359,  Southborough, MA 01772

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