There is an odd expression in our antique business that it takes three items to be an official collection. If that’s so, I have just started a new collection. It was never intended to be anything more than one piece of weird yard art. I was just looking for one odd lawn decoration after moving into our old cottage-style home. We already had flamingos, wooden flowers and wind chimes in the backyard, all donated as housewarming gifts.
It was while out and about at garage sales, traveling down a recently reconstructed street in a neighboring village, that I found it. Having advertised as a block sale to celebrate the reopening of a roadway, we just had to be there. Wandering from sale to sale, I came across my first fire hydrant. We asked the history and we were informed the resident whose property contained the hydrant had first choice to buy it before it went to scrap. Big and red and green with a three foot water pipe out the bottom, it looked like the type of statement I wanted to make.
After all, our yard already had a bird pond made from the concrete base of a round factory restroom wash fountain, the type that allowed many workers to wash their hands at the same time.
Now, sensible people would have passed, but I’m not one of them. We paid the price and somehow got it into the van and home. What really sold me on the water hydrant was the name: Waterous from St. Paul, Mn. Now that may not be a household name but as an industrial salesman with Minnesota as part of my area, they were a customer and I felt a kindred spirit putting one of their products in my yard. With loyalty to products, I have often purchased what I could from companies that bought from me.
I found they had a long history that goes back to 1844 when Charles Waterous joined the Van Brocklin foundry and then purchased the company in 1855, later changing the name to Waterous. The company is still in business with vast operations in cast iron valves and hydrants, but more importantly produces pumps for many applications, including fire control.
The second fire hydrant found its way into our van and onto the back lawn when another garage sale had yet another one for sale. Looking slightly newer and again with the Waterous name, I was curious and asked the price. This time it was such a giveaway, I could not refuse to buy, especially when two massive brothers insisted on hoisting it into the van.
That was the last one I had seen for sale outside of an antique store or two, which had prices I was not willing to pay. It had been seven years, and I was no longer willing to consider another purchase, but a friend stopped for a daytime visit to our home and commented on the hydrants she had not noticed before. Why did the village put them in? Are they real? Is the water hooked up? Would I like another one? Just get it out of my yard. Well, a man of my station can’t refuse a lady’s request of a gift, so off we go to get this next hydrant and place it into our yard.
Signed MHV & F. Co, this one is of a different, simpler and older looking design. I was curious about the manufacturer. Like Waterous, the company has a long history, starting in 1854. In 1929, M&H produced their first fire hydrant. That makes mine quite new, as it’s self-dated 1971. Since our cottage was built in the early 1930s, I would prefer to have only period pieces, but, alas, it’s not to be when you are collecting such odd items.