Hand pumps used not so long ago

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Have you ever had the opportunity to get a cup of cold water just pumped from the ground? Every time I see the old hand pump at the Buffalo Island Museum, it takes me back to my childhood and my Grandpa's farm. There was nothing as refreshing as a cold drink of water from that old hand pump in the yard.

Hand pumps were used not so long ago.

Pumps are the earliest machine that was controlled with natural energy. The antique iron pump at the museum is made by the Red Jacket Pump Manufacturing Co. from Davenport, Iowa. It was donated by the Steele family. Perhaps they had ordered it from the Sears, Roebuck catalog as a pump similar to this one pictured in the old catalog.

There are still many homes on Buffalo Island with outside water wells, but they are attached to an electric or diesel pump. The ones in our yards are mostly used to water the garden or fill the swimming pool. The old hand pump is truly a relic of our past.

Man needs water to survive and has always sought a way to attain it. Water pumps have been around since 3000 B.C. They were made with a water wheel and chutes at a river or stream. Around 500 B.C. other pumps were invented using a waterwheel with pots attached. One of these types was invented by Ctesibus of Egypt. In the 1600s a pump was invented that placed a pump over a hole with a pipe running to the well.

Hand pumps have to be sealed to keep out contaminants. The handle is attached to a piston which is forced down the cylinder. When the piston is pulled back up, water is pulled along. The piston has a check valve that allows the pressure out as it is pressed down. The base of the cylinder has a valve that keeps the water from returning to the well.

A Michigan inventor, Robert Lafferty, developed the first Red Jacket pump more than 125 years ago. It was a double action iron pump that used both downward and upward thrusts of the handle. He chose the name of the pump after a Seneca Indian, Chief Red Jacket. In 1878 his company merged with the Cincinnati and Davenport Pump Companies and they formed the Red Jacket Pump Manufacturing Company.

Their pumps were of the highest quality and even today, the Red Jacket name is still in business selling a full range of water pumps for homes, farms, and industries. Although most of their present business is selling the big industrial pumps, there are still hand pumps sold to remote foreign countries, and in the United States to homes without electricity as the Amish or to people for their remote cabins.

This old hand pump is located in the kitchen area of the museum beside the wood cook stove, wooden ice box, churn, and other things used in early homes in this area.

The Buffalo Island Museum in Monette wants to preserve the past for future generations. Admission is free. The museum is open Friday and Saturday 12:30-4 p.m. This summer we are also open from 1-3 p.m. Sunday.

For more information visit the museum's Facebook page. To contact the museum our e-mail address: www.buffaloislandmuseum@yahoo.com.

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