Joe Naper Pumper, purchased by Naperville in 1874
Joe Naper pumper in action
Six days after the Little Joe Naper was purchased, a big fire broke out downtown. At the sound of the alarm bell, the Hook and Ladder Company rushed to the firehouse and hauled the pumper to the burning drug store at the corner of Main Street and Jefferson: “The boys had the hose laid from the river in a jiffy and the engine boys were ready to act within fifteen minutes after the first alarm, but the machine wouldn’t work and a look of despair settled down upon those who had placed so much dependence upon the little Joe Naper.” Businessmen in nearby buildings took action, hauling the contents out of their establishments and stowing them a safe distance away. Meanwhile, someone had the foresight to send a telegram to Aurora asking for help as the fire pushed on in a path of combustion. “It had eaten up the drug store, harness shop, express office, and was just ready to leap into Ehrhardt’s shoe shop and Ruchty’s dwelling when glad tidings in the shape of water was sent up to the multitude through the hose from the river.” With help from Aurora, the buildings were saved. As it turned out, the little Joe Naper was inoperable due to too much care and attention—it had been oiled in the wrong places and several nuts had been incorrectly adjusted. Although the new pumper did not have an engine, its state-of-the-art mechanics were beyond the bucket and axe method of fire extinguishing that the Hook and Ladder Company was familiar with. They’d only had the pumper six days before its call to service in the big fire, so the on-site training was indeed a crash course in modern mechanics.