11-12 October 2012

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Lot 176

1868 Button Pumpable Handtub “Columbian” Fire Engine

  • L. Button no. 590

Sold for $115,500

• Professionally restored crane neck Button handtub

• Long competition career

Lysander Button, a machinist from Albany, went to work for fire engine manufacturer John Rogers in Waterford, New York, in the early-1830s. By 1841, he owned the company and renamed it after himself. An inventor and innovator, he made many improvements to the hand-pump engines then in use, including the “piano engine,” which delivered water from the front of the engine, and the “runaround,” which returned water to the suction to relieve pressure on the hose.

This Button pumper was delivered new to the Columbian Engine Company, of Spring Valley, New York, and became its second piece of apparatus when delivered in 1868. The Columbians, who recently celebrated their 150th anniversary, sold it around 1890 to a competition muster association in Winchendon, Massachusetts. Renamed the “Columbia” at that time, it competed in events of the New England States Veteran Firemen’s League into the 1920s, winning more than $9,000 in prize money. Sold to the Boston Fire Department in 1945, it continued to compete until put on exhibit in the Boston Sparks Fire Museum. It was acquired by the Granite Handtub Association, Inc., in 2004 and has since been restored to factory-original condition.

Weighing about 6,000 pounds and with brass brake arms 22 feet in length, it takes 50 to 60 people to pump at full capacity, although as few as 10 can deliver water at a lower pace. The water box is the original Cuban mahogany, and the double air chamber can develop more than 150 pounds of pressure with the original 10-inch cylinders. Built with three discharges, two were disconnected when it went into muster competition. The handtub is beautifully decorated with gold leaf, much of it copied from original artwork discovered during the restoration. It comes complete with a bell, suction hose, and hand-pull, as well as vehicle-pull tongues and chocks. It is ready to be displayed or to fulfill its original purpose of pumping water.


Please note this vehicle will be sold on a Bill of Sale only.

Please contact our exclusive automotive transportation partner, Reliable Carriers, for a shipping quote or any other information on the transport of this vehicle.

Alexander Weaver


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California, United States

Alexander Weaver joined RM Sotheby’s in 2011 as a Car Specialist after graduating from Furman University in South Carolina. Born... read more

Augustin Sabatié-Garat


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United Kingdom

Augustin Sabatié-Garat joined RM Europe in 2012 as a Car Specialist after more than a decade in the collector car hobby. Gradua... read more

Barney Ruprecht


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Ontario, Canada

Barney’s interest in classic cars began at an early age after being introduced to his father’s all-original 1965 Porsche 911. Barney l... read more

David Swig


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California, United States

David Swig joined RM Sotheby’s West Coast division as a Car Specialist in May 2015. David is a life-long automobile enthusi... read more

Don Rose


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United States

Don joined RM in 2006 after several years of professionally trading sports and classic cars, and after earning a reputation as a noted... read more

Donnie Gould


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Florida, United States

Donnie Gould joined the RM team in 2002 as a partner and Car Specialist after more than two decades in the vintage automobile auction ... read more

Gord Duff


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Ontario, Canada

Gord Duff began his journey with RM Sotheby’s in 1998. Since then, he has gained an intimate knowledge of a variety of marques a... read more

Jake Auerbach


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California, United States

Jake Auerbach got his start in the automotive industry at an early age, spending his summers during high school working at a classic c... read more

Kurt Forry


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Having worked for Bonhams’ Automobilia department for over 10 years, Kurt Forry joined RM Sotheby’s with more than a decad... read more

Matt Malamut


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California, United States

A long-time car enthusiast and Southern California native, Matt studied Automotive Technology at San Diego Miramar College and complet... read more

Michael Squire


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United Kingdom

Michael Squire joined RM Sotheby’s European Division in the summer of 2016. He comes to RM with a prestigious racing background ... read more

Mike Fairbairn


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Ontario, Canada

As one of the three founding partners of RM Sotheby’s, Mike has a long-standing interest in the classic car industry. Graduating... read more

Oliver Camelin


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United Kingdom

With an extensive background in exotic sports car history and sales, a particular passion for American curves, and fluency in three la... read more

Paul Darvill


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United Kingdom

Paul Darvill joined the RM Sotheby’s European team at the beginning of 2015. Paul holds a degree in French and Politics from the... read more

Pete Fisher


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Ontario, Canada

Pete Fisher was first introduced to antique cars in high school, working for Classic Coachworks in his hometown of Blenheim, Ontario. ... read more

Shelby Myers


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California, United States

Shelby Myers grew up with the classic car industry infused into every aspect of his life. He had the unique opportunity to watch the R... read more

Tonnie Van der Velden


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United Kingdom

Tonnie Van der Velden joined RM Sotheby’s European division in September 2015 as a Car Specialist. A lifelong enthusiast, Tonnie... read more