Neptune Hose Carriage No.6 

Mercer Museum of the Bucks County Historical Society

HISTORIC OVERVIEW

Neptune Hose Carriage at the Crystal PalaceThe Neptune Hose Carriage was built in 1851 by George Ruhl, in Smith's Court, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. It was constructed for the Neptune Hose Company No.6 which was part of the then Philadelphia Volunteer Fire Department. It was originally priced at $5,000.00; however, the fire company added an additional $2,000.00 to the price for aesthetic embellishment. In 1853, it was entered into the New York World' Fair where it won first prize for being "the most beautiful specimen of fire apparatus in the world. Its exterior was decorated with a mass of gold and silver sculptures and mother-of-pearl ornamentation of exquisite craftsmanship." In addition, masterful paintings decorated the sides of the hose cylinder. After the World's Fair, it remained with the Neptune Hose Company until the company disbanded in 1871. At this time, it was sold to Rome, Georgia, only after many of the more expensive ornaments were removed. While in Georgia, additional carriage decorations were pilfered and the vehicle was partially dismantled. By 1902, the Volunteer Fireman's Association of Philadelphia, trading a newer service wagon for the Neptune Hose Carriage, secured ownership of the Neptune back in Philadelphia. After a considerable expense and time, the Neptune's condition was largely restored under the direction of some of the original members of the Neptune Hose Company. In 1919, the carriage was given to the Bucks County Historical society for preservation and safe keeping.

PRE-TREATMENT CONDITION

During Treatment: MetalStructurally the hose cart was in stable condition; however, numerous decorative components exhibited signs of active and on-going deterioration. Several ornamental and sculptural elements were damaged and / or missing. The close-plated iron arch supports and decorative scrollwork brackets were heavily tarnished; active iron corrosion was observed in areas where the iron was exposed by abrasion or scratching of the silver plating. The gilt bronze mounts and sculptural figures were visually disfigured by a heavy layer of grime; tarnishing of the copper alloy substrate was noted where the gilt surfaces had been lost to over polishing and abrasion. Masonite panels, decorated with thin sections of mother-of-pearl, had been added and covered early, if not original, stenciled and gilt iron panels secured to the ends of the central hose reel or drum. The running gear, originally painted black with gold leaf and fine red striping, was obscured under a thick, darkened linseed oil coating. The fire hose, made from sections of leather joined with copper alloy rivets, was in poor and unstable condition. The hose was stiff and brittle overall; the surfaces were friable and stained by copper sterate which had formed around each rivet.

 

TREATMENT

After Treatment: Neptune Hose CarriageThe hose carriage was partially disassembled to facilitate treatment of the individual components and thorough cleaning, polishing, and lacquering of the silver plated elements. Areas of actively flaking paint, on both the wood and metal, were consolidated using reversible thermoplastic resins; discolored and darkened varnish (linseed oil) was reduced using aqueous and solvent gels. Areas of lost paint were inpainted to visually reintegrate the running gear with the cleaned and highly polished silver and gilt ornamentation. The later masonite and mother-of-pearl panels were removed from the hose drum per curatorial request, cleaned and stabilized, before being placed in the museum archives. The earlier gilt and stenciled end panels were treated and installed in their original locations on each end of the hose reel. Missing sculptural figures were recast using molds prepared from extant elements. The replicas were gilded and installed as required. The leather hose was cleaned, humidified and reshaped to reduce the sharp creases which had formed over time. The corrosion was mechanically reduced from each rivet and the metal was lacquered to help slow future corrosion formation. The cart was carefully reassembled and crated for transport to the Bucks County Historical Society / Mercer Museum where it was placed on exhibit.

 


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