“Wow! I had no idea!”
That is the frequent response of first-time visitors. Many, even firefighters, are often flabbergasted by the historic hand pumpers, steamers, chemical engines, and much more on display. They love the personal tours that we offer to all visitors. With the emphasis also on fire safety and honoring firefighters, people of all ages and backgrounds are appreciative. We are privileged to have with all of the wonderful fire museums a great history and purpose.
How did our museum come about? The name “Fred Conway” is the key. Some fifty years ago, he was the inventor and producer of the labels for telephones that posted the number of the closest fire department. This was in the day before “9-1-1” when people had to dial the fire department themselves – or have the “operator” do it (and that person might also make a mistake). Fred wrote amazing books on firefighting history and equipment. He collected and restored engines and equipment dating back to the 18th century. And he was a prime mover in the formation of the Fire Museum Network.
But when he died unexpectedly in 1999, his large collection was put into storage. In 2009 the collection was in danger of being sold in auction or on ebay and thus dispersed. A not-for-profit group was formed and bought the collection. Thus was born the “Vintage Fire Museum” which, in 2014, gained a permanent home in downtown Jeffersonville, Indiana – directly across the Ohio River from downtown Louisville, Kentucky.
Since that time the Museum has grown in size (with several additional pieces) and visitation and is now preparing for an expansion which will further emphasize fire safety education among other things. The Museum is now debt-free and is planning a $1,000,000 campaign to make this expansion possible.
The Museum tells the story of firefighting in America, and its collection includes vintage equipment from across the country. Among its annual events are a “Muster” with parade and pumping at the Ohio River (Sept. 19 this year), a “9-11 Memorial,” “Snacks with Santa,” “Biergarten,” “Kindle the Flame” (Feb. 14), and others. Details and much more are at www.vintagefiremuseum.org.
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