Wacky Wednesday: Fire Extinguisher Hand Grenades

Many bloggers use the Geneabloggers Daily Blogging Prompts to help them with ideas for what to post on a given day. There’s Black Sheep Sunday, Maritime Monday, Tombstone Tuesday, etc.

This, however, isn’t an official blogging prompt – I’m making it up right now. I’m calling this Wacky Wednesday because I’m posting something that is wacky, and not actually genealogy related, but something I discovered while researching in the NY City Archives last year. If you find something wacky while researching your family, feel free to post it as Wacky Wednesday as well.

I was researching my gg-grandfather who lived in New York City at the turn of the last century. In the city archives they have city directories which are unfortunately falling apart. I hope other copies of these directories exist somewhere, because the copies in the NY City Archives are not particularly good copies. In any case, while looking up my gg-grandfather, I came across the following advertisement in the 1890 NY City Directory for The Hayward Hand Grenade Fire Extinguisher:

In case you think this was some kind of random ad, apparently fire extinguisher hand grenades were fairly common back then and many companies manufactured them. The grenades were actually glass bottles filled with salt water (and later toxic chemicals) that you would throw towards the base of a fire, breaking the glass, and allowing the liquid to hopefully put out the fire.

A quick look on eBay shows several vintage glass fire extinguisher grenades for sale, for a few hundred dollars each. One collector is selling a Hayward Hand Grenade made from cobalt blue glass:

Cobalt Blue Hayward Hand Grenade Fire Extinguisher  (eBay)

The same collector has many other glass grenades in his collection:

More glass fire extinguisher hand grenades (eBay)

A glass collector named Ferdinand Meyer has written up a good summary of the background of these interesting artifacts from a glass collector’s point of view – with a collection of photos of many of the grenades from different companies (including Hayward). One photo he displays is from another site that sells antique bottles, and shows a yellow glass bottle that largely matches the image in the advertisement:

Yellow Hayward Hand Grenade Fire Extinguisher (GreatAntiqueBottles.com)

That particular bottle is for sale for $390.

So that’s the wacky thing I found while researching my family in the NY City Archives. What wacky things have you found when you were looking for information on your family?

3 thoughts on “Wacky Wednesday: Fire Extinguisher Hand Grenades

  1. I like the prompt Philip! You should suggest it to Geneabloggers! I bet he’ll add it to the list! That is a pretty wacky find! At first glace I, without reading your post I thought they would be molotov cocktails. This certainly seems like a better use of the bottle!

    1. Dear H. Smith,

      I am with the Eagles Mere Museum in Eagles Mere, PA. We have just been given a rack of 3 of these hand fire grenades that have been hanging in one of the cottages in town since 1886 when it was built.

      I have read that some of these were first filled with salt water and then later with a chemical, most likely carbon tetrachloride.

      In order for use to keep these wonderful items, we NEED to know what is inside them. Is there a date or time period when the switch was made from salt water to the chemical. We can’t afford to keep them with c chemical inside for safety reasons but would love to have them if they are just filled with salt water.

      Hopefully you know enough that you can answer my question.

      Many thanks,
      Barbie James
      Curator, Eagles Mere Museum
      P.O. Box 440
      Eagles Mere, PA

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