Tin Toy Fire Pumper at State Museum of Pennsylvania

Sharing the Common Wealth showcases objects, artifacts, documents, structures and buildings from the collections of PHMC.

The earliest known manufactured American toy, a tin fire pumper, circa 1840, attributed to Francis, Field and Francis, of Philadelphia, was recently acquired by The State Museum of Pennsylvania in Harrisburg. Historians believe the company, also known as the Philadelphia Tin Toy Manufactory, was the first toy manufacturer of record in the United States. Francis, Field and Francis made toy horse-drawn carts, locomotives, an omnibus, and a boat called the General Taylor. The toy tin pumper surfaced in the late 1980s and changed hands a few times before California collector (and Pennsylvania native) Lewis Leis donated it, in 1999, to The State Museum. In addition to its rarity – only two other toys by Francis, Field and Francis are known to exist – the pumper also underscores the importance of firefighting and fire companies in nineteenth-century America. This particular example is especially remarkable because it retains most of its original painted decoration. Its rarity and condition elevate it from toy to treasure.