Seagrave Co. 1907-1919 - Seagrave Corp. 1919-1963 - Columbus, Ohio - Seagrave Fire Apparatus Divn. of FWD Corp. 1963-present Clintonville, Wisconsin


One of America's best-known manufacturers of fire apparatus, Seagrave's first motorized vehicles were powered by a 4-cylinder air-cooled engines; the first three were delivered to Vancouver, B.C. late in 1907. Two years later came the AC90 tractor, also with 4-cylinder air-­cooled engine, for articulated ladder trucks, while in 1911 came the first fire engines with water cooling. These centrifugal pumpers carried their 6-cylinder engines under a long hood, though the air-cooled driver-over-engine 'buckboards' were made up to 1914. All Seagraves had chain drive up to 1922.

1915 saw a fwd conversion for 65, 75 and 85 ft. ladder trucks, the Model K with 4- or 6-cylinder engine. Seagrave also used Couple Gear electric chassis for their ladder trucks. In 1917 came the first motor water tower, and in 1922 a shaft-drive pumper with rounded hood, artillery or disc wheels which supplemented the older chain-drive models with Mercedes-type gabled hood, though the latter continued for six years longer. In 1923 a smaller pumper, the 350 gpm Suburbanite with 6-cylinder Continental engine appeared, and there were also larger pumpers of 750 to 1,300 gpm. A wide variety of fire apparatus including articulated ladder trucks were made in the 1920s.

In 1932 appeared Seagrave's 240 hp V-12 engine, de­signed to counter American La France's V-12 which had come in 1931. A smaller V-12, based on Pierce-Arrow's passenger car unit, was added in 1935, and the still smaller Seagraves such as the Continental-powered Suburbanite were still made. Very few Seagraves used commercial truck chassis, but some were built on Ford and Reo chassis in the1930s because of the Depression. In 1935 new styling with a V -radiator grille was adopted, and this lasted until 1951. The first limousine "Safety Sedan Pumper" came in 1936, also smaller pumper series called Sentry, of 500 to 600 gpm capacity. Articulated ladder trucks with both open and closed cabs were still made during the 1930s and 1940s.

In 1951 came the 70th Anniversary Series, completely restyled with the siren built into the center of the radiator grille; this lasted until 1970 and was used in a wide variety of apparatus, pumpers, rigid and articulated ladder trucks, with open and closed cabs. The big V-12 engine was retained and a new model with 300 hp came in 1955. Segrave equipment was offered on a number of commercial chassis in the 1950s including Ford and International. In 1959 came the first cab-forward models, though conventionals continued until 1970. Seagrave was the first major fire engine builder to offer an aerial plat­form (snorkel) in 65 and 85 ft. sizes, in 1961. The following year Waukesha and Hall-Scott engines were available; production of the V-12 dwindled during the 1960s. The company was sold to FWD in 1963; the Columbus plant was gradually run down and production transferred to Clintonville. Seagrave had introduced the Rear Admiral, a rear-mounted turntable designed for the new cab-forward chassis, but because of the move to Clintonville none were delivered for several years. Seagrave fire engines were made at Clintonville alongside FWD's own Tractioneer cab-forward pumpers. In 1969 a new company was formed in Columbus to make fire equipment on commercial chassis, sold under the name Seagrave Commercial - by­ Timpco.

The last conventional pumper of the 70th Anniversary Series was delivered to Jackson, Mich. in 1970. In 1972 Seagrave introduced a new custom cab-forward range with Detroit Diesel engines, made in combination pumper and articulated ladder truck form. They also built chassis for the Pierce Mfg. Co. of Appleton, Wisconsin.

Seagrave fire engines were assembled in Walkerville (now Windsor) Ontario from 1910 to 1918, and in St. Catherines, Ontario from 1930 to 1936. (See also Bickle.)


Seagrave: Birthplace of the Modern Firetruck - By Carl Morgan

If you happen to have a soft spot in your heart for historic old buildings - and an extra $350,000 gathering dust in your pocket - take a closer look at a long, narrow, two story red-brick building on Walker Road between Richmond and Niagara streets.

Like the vast majority of people who travel Walker Road on a regular basis, you have probably seen it without really seeing it - or, more importantly, without knowing that it was home of the first company to produce a motorized fire engine in Canada.

Until recently, it was believed that the building had been erected sometime between 1895 and 1904. However, a search of the Town of Walkerville assessment rolls by Municipal Archivist Linda Chakmak, reveals that as late as 1904, a row of six private homes (lots 37 to 47) were located on that stretch of Walker, or 5th Street as it was known at that time. A year later, the registry shows the lots were owned by W.E. Seagrave, the head of W.E. Seagrave Fire Apparatus Company of Ohio (established 1881).

So far, no records have surfaced showing precisely when construction began or finished but we can surmise that it was Seagrave who built the building as the Canadian subsidiary of his successful Ohio fire truck company. Walt McCall, retired Manager, Public Relations at Chrysler Canada, is one of this country's leading authorities on fire apparatus equipment and companies. According to McCall, the Canadian Seagrave operation was essentially an assembly company, using materials shipped to Walkerville from the manufacturing plant in Ohio.

In 1907 Seagrave assembled its first motorized fire apparatus, shipping three engines to Vancouver. In 1910 the city of Windsor bought a Seagrave aerial truck and in 1914, bought a Seagrave motor powered pumper which was in use until 1947.

Seagrave turned out hundreds of fire engines for fire departments across Canada. When the Seagrave combination truck purchased by the City of London was heavily damaged in a train collision in 1913, the fire department thought so highly of the vehicle that, instead of scrapping it, the truck was sent back to Walkerville to be rebuilt.

For sixteen years, Seagrave produced air and water-cooled fire engines but found himself in financial trouble when rival American-LaFrance set up in Toronto in 1915. To save his company, Seagrave tried merging with Loughead Machine Company in Sarnia and produced a line of heavy-duty trucks. The move failed and the company locked its doors in 1923.

Currently owned by Germail Mann, the principal building of the Seagraves site (the middle portion of the site which is comprised of three attached structures) houses a cabinet making operation and a body shop.

Although the building appears to be down-at-the-heels, its historical importance overrides its physical condition. It is one of the last known industrial buildings still standing in Walkerville that can trace its roots back to the early years of the 20th Century (despite the fact that in its heyday, Walkerville was the site of dozens of different industrial companies).

What fate awaits this nearly 100 year old building is uncertain. In larger urban centres, it would probably be snapped up for converting into fashionable condos, studios, boutiques or a combination thereof. Now if I only had an extra $350,000!


    For more information please read:

Seagrave: Birthplace of the Modern Firetruck - By Carl Morgan

Walter M.P. McCall - Classic Seagrave 1935-1951: Photo Archive

Walter M.P. McCall - Seagrave 70th Anniversary Series Photo Archive

Kent D. Parrish - Seagrave Fire Apparatus: 1959-2004 Photo Archive

Walter M.P. McCall & George H. Dammann - American Fire Engines Since 1900

Fred W. Crismon - Fire Engines

Bob Dubbert - Encyclopedia of Canadian Fire Apparatus

Donal M. Baird - A Canadian History of Fire Engines

Phil DaCosta - One Hundred Years of America's Fire Fighting Apparatus

Bill Hass - History of the American Water Towers

Hans Halberstadt - The American Fire Engine

Hans Halberstadt - Fire Engines

T.A. Jacobs - A History of Fire Engines

Matthew Lee - A Pictorial History of the Fire Engine

M.W. Goodman MD - Inventing the American Fire Engine: An Illustrated History of Fire Engine Patents

Consumer's Guide - The Complete Book of Fire Engines: A colorful Review of Today's Fire Apparatus

Sheila Buff - Fire Engines in North America

Sheila Buff - Fire Engines: Motorized Apparatus Since 1900

Neil Wallington - World Encyclopedia of Fire Engines: an illustrated guide to fire trucks around the world

Keith Ryan & Neil Wallington - The Illustrated History of Fire Engines

Paul Barrett - Heavy Rescue Trucks: 1931 - 2000 Photo Gallery

Larry Shapiro - Aerial Fire Trucks

Larry Shapiro - Fighting Fire Trucks

Larry Shapiro - Hooks and Ladders

Larry Shapiro - Pumpers: Workhorse Fire Engines

Donald F. Wood - American Volunteer Fire Trucks

Donald F. Wood - Big City Fire Truck 1900-1950

Donald F. Wood & Wayne Sorensen - Big City Fire Trucks: 1951-1996

Donald F. Wood & Wayne Sorenson - Motorized Fire Apparatus of the West, 1900-1960

Donald F. Wood & Wayne Sorensen - New York City Fire Trucks

Donald F. Wood & Wayne Sorenson - Volunteer & Rural Fire Apparatus Photo Gallery

Kenneth Little - Chicago Fire Department engines: Sixty years of motorized pumpers, 1912-1972

Kenneth Little - Chicago Fire Department hook & ladder tractors, 1914-1971

Ron Jeffers - The apparatus of the Jersey City Fire Department: Yesterday and today

John Rieth - Jersey Shore Fire Apparatus: Classic Thru the 60's

Philip R. Lincoln - Massachusetts fire apparatus: A pictorial Collection

Charles Madderom - Los Angeles City Fire Apparatus: 1953 Through 1999 Photo Archive

George Klass - Fire apparatus: A pictorial history of the Los Angeles Fire Department

John A. Calderone - Wheels of the bravest: A history of FDNY fire apparatus, 1865-1992

Peter Aloisi - Apparatus and fires across America: Featuring former FDNY apparatus

Scott Schimpf - Fire Apparatus of Philadelphia

Harrold Shell - Past and present: A history of Phoenix fire trucks

Leo E. Duliba - Industrial & Private Fire Apparatus: 1925 Through 2001 Photo Archive

G.N. Georgano & G. Marshall Naul - The Complete Encyclopedia of Commercial Vehicles

Albert Mroz - Illustrated Encyclopedia of American Trucks & Commercial Vehicles

Daniel D. Hutchins - Wheels Across America: Carriage Art & Craftsmanship

George W. Green - Special-Use Vehicles: An Illustrated History of Unconventional Cars and Trucks

William T. King - History of the American Steam Fire-Engine

Ed Hass - The Dean of Steam Fire Engine Builders

John M. Peckham - Fighting fire with fire: A pictorial volume of steam fire-fighting apparatus


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