The Annual Fireman’s Muster is a free event featuring hand pumped fire engines built in the 1800s competing to see which crew can throw the longest stream. This event is part of Heritage Days Salem.

This event featured antique hand pumped fire engines where crews pump their machines to see who can shoot the longest stream of water. This is the oldest organized sport in the United States.

The first firemen’s muster was held on July 4th, 1849 in Bath, Maine. It was a competition among crews with hand pumped fire engines to see who could shoot the longest stream of water. The tradition has been kept alive into the 21st century; every year on a Saturday close to July 4th, another muster is held in Bath.

On November 20th, 1890, the New England States Veteran Firemen’s League was founded in Boston. Musters were held all over New England, often attracting 50 or 60 entrants.

There are two classes of machine: A and B. The class is determined by the size of the cylinders. Each machine is allowed 15 minutes on the pumping platform to shoot as many streams as their crew can manage.

A suction hose goes into the water tank, which is kept full from a hydrant or a tanker truck. The foreman stands on top and keeps an eye on optimal wind conditions. The pipe crew handles the nozzle and aims the powerful spray down the line of red resin paper that is the playing field.

The judges measure the farthest flung dime sized drop of water to determine who wins each class.

At the end of the day, the foremen of the winning machines are ceremoniously dunked in the water tank. The full set of images can be found here. Prints available.

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