On April 20, 1888, the village of Oxford, New York voted to raise $3000 for the purchase of a new steam fire engine for their fire company, The Lady Washington Hose. In November of the same year, a Silsby Steam Size 5 Pumper was delivered from the Silsby Manufacturing Company located in Seneca Falls, New York.
The Silsby Oxford Steamer featured a rotary gear pump design, an alternative to the piston pump that was common at the time. Many engineers and machinists condemned Silsby’s rotary pump design; however, the engine was still able to pump over 500 gallons of water per minute. This engine was most likely pulled by two horses or a small group of firefighters, as many small communities chose not to incur the expense of having horses. In 1931, the Silsby was put into reserve, as it was only being used for large-scale fires. The engine was last pumped at a block fire in 1939.
The Silsby Manufacturing Company, founded in 1845, was one of the first manufacturers of steam fire engines in the United States. Silsby was a true pioneer in the business of supplying the world with machinery capable of doing work that had never been imagined just a few years prior. During the steam era, Silsby Manufacturing Company produced over 1000 units, more than any other fire engine manufacturer. In December of 1891, Silsby merged with three other manufacturers to form the American Fire Engine Company, which shortly evolved into American LaFrance.