Leonard Pump – a bit of family history

Cape Cod prior to WWII was a sparsely populated peninsula that consisted of small villages separated by forests consisting primarily of scrub oak and pitch pine trees.  What used to be miles of white pine groves had been decimated for ship building and the boxwood industry over the seventeenth and eighteenth century. 

The Cape had many fresh water ponds.  The number bandied about was 365 which may have been close enough to be true.  There were small industries of fishing, growing and harvesting cranberries, along with boat building and some modest house construction.  It was nothing like the housing boom that occurred after WW II.

It was also a summer haven for those that needed to escape the heat and still air of the city (primarily Boston).  There was no air conditioning, but there was plenty of sandy beaches, inviting water, and an almost perpetual sea breeze.

Summer was also a season for forest fires on the Cape.  The villages had organized several volunteer fire departments that not only took care of domestic fire, they also teamed up to fight the seasonal forest fires.

With the motor car came truck and shortly fire trucks.  The Cape firefighters developed a unique truck known as a brush breaker for its ability to crash through the scrub oaks and pitch pines allowing the firefighting teams to reach pond water and use the fire truck’s pumps to attack brush fires.

Brush Breakers and Fire Trucks

Unfortunately the water pumps on fire trucks were designed to hook up to water sources such as from fire hydrants and would often burn out when asked to pump from a fresh water pond that included sand in the mix.

My grandfather, B.D. Leonard solved that problem by designing a pump that was so heavy-duty that it would pump as long as needed from most any source of water including salt water from a bay.

His father, J.M. Leonard, had a machine shop and foundry that manufactured and sold these miracle fire truck pumps.  B. D. never bothered with a patent on his invention.  He never was comfortable with the concept of patents, feeling that if the public respected the inventor a patent was not necessary.

the Leonard pump

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