The Collector’s Minute: Chemical Cart Fire Extinguisher

It’s often very hard to find a large-wheeled chemical-cart fire extinguisher today, as most were scrapped for the metal during the Second World War.

“Chemical Cart” extinguishers were used in factories and towns all over the United States from the late 19th century onward. This one depicted in the advertisement was made by the Badger Fire Extinguisher Company in Boston, Mass. Most late-19th- to early-20th-century pieces like this were obsolete by the 1930s and few survived the scrap drives of the Second World War.

In the case of this example, its design was patented in 1900, at which time patents ran for 17 years, meaning this extinguisher could have been produced circa 1900-1917. The ones that did survive tended to be pieces owned by rural fire departments that tended to retain older equipment due to budget restraints of the Great Depression.

The big selling-point for these chemical cart extinguishers was that companies received reductions in their insurance if they had such fire-fighting equipment on hand and some workers trained in its use. In an era of horse-drawn fire wagons and volunteer local fire departments located miles away from industrial centers, having an onsite fire crew was an important consideration. Modern versions are still in production, but use more advanced methods of pressurized delivery and a wider range of fire-dousing chemicals.

An advertisement for a 40-gallon Badger Chemical Cart Fire Extinguisher. If you can find one day, it would be worth, depending on condition, $800-$1,500.

Today few of these early 20th century vintage large-wheeled extinguishers come up for auction or are offered for sale, but demand for them is modest, except among collectors of vintage fire-fighting equipment.

In the current market, values for them vary depending on condition. Most, in good condition, sell in the $800-$1,500 range.

Mike Wilcox, of Wilcox & Hall Appraisers, is a Worthologist who specializes in Art Nouveau and the Arts and Craft movement.


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