Dating Vintage Foot Pumps
Depending on the make of pump, you may sometimes find a patent/registration number stamped on the pump. If so, follow the links below to two websites that might help you date the pump:
This may help you with registration marks...
This may help you with patents...
Makes & Models
Dunlop is a very famous name synonymous with pneumatic engineering and many other rubber related products. John Boyd Dunlop (5 February 1840 – 23 October 1921) was a Scottish inventor. He studied to be a veterinary surgeon at the University of Edinburgh, a profession he pursued for nearly ten years at home, moving to Downpatrick, Ireland, in 1867.In 1887, he developed the first practical pneumatic or inflatable tyre for his son's tricycle, tested it in Belfast and patented it on 7 December 1888. Dunlop’s development of the pneumatic tyre arrived at a crucial time in the development of road transport.
The Dunlop company traces its origins back to 1889, when the Dunlop Pneumatic Tyre Co. Ltd was formed in Dublin to acquire and commercialise John Boyd Dunlop’s pneumatic tyre patent. J. B. Dunlop was one of the co-founders. Establishment of The Dunlop Rubber Company then followed. This was a UK based company and started production of tyres for motor cars in 1900. It manufactured tyres and other rubber products for most of the 20th century.
The company expanded rapidly and, in 1918, production started at a new plant in Birmingham, known commonly as "Fort Dunlop" because of the fortress-like appearance of the main building. By 1920 the company had selling subsidiaries or divisions across the world.
During the period up to and including WW2, Dunlop Rubber produced a wide range of high quality foot pumps out of Fort Dunlop - as part of its expansion and diversification programme. The range included many sizes of pump - from small compact pumps (like the Minor and Junior) to larger examples like the Standard, Major, Giant and trolley compressor. In fact the range, variety and quality of Dunlop pumps is equalled only by one other famous maker Wm.Turner & Bro. (Kismet) of Sheffield. Dunlops are a very smooth acting pump, a pleasure to dismantle and overhaul. They were standard accessories on a range of classic cars.
By the early 1980s Dunlop Rubber was much indebted and had severe financial difficulties. In 1985 the company was acquired byBTR plc. The road tyre assets, including the right to use the Dunlop name for road tyres, were sold immediately to Sumitomo Rubber Industries Ltd of Japan.
The Wood Milne company were established in 1896 by T.H. Roberts of Leyland, near Preston Lancs. They opened in the Golden Hill Lane factory in Leyland in 1896 and also developed offices and outlets in Westminster and Aldersgate St. in London
Graces Guide for 1914 indicates they manufactured a variety of items including rubber shoe heels, motor car and motorcycle tyres, shoeshine, golf balls, foot pumps and general rubber goods
In 1924, Wood Milne were taken over by the British Goodrich Rubber company and all patents and property rights were transferred. This accounts for the almost identical design of Wood Milne and the later British Goodrich pumps.
The earliest Wood Milne foot pump patent dates from 1911. So an original Wood Milne pump can be confidently dated as having been made between 1911 and 1924. As far as I can determine, there was only one model of pump that Wood Milne produced. These are one of the prettiest pumps in my view with all of the mechanisms showing. They normally are finished in a maroon colour, with a bright steel cast base. A brass plaque gives worldwide patent numbers.
Wood Milne pumps also came with a nice little circular brass pressure gauge incorporated at the front. The pump frame offers some protection to the gauge - but unfortunately they still tend to get damaged over the years and are difficult to get replacements for. So I’m lucky to have some pumps with gauges all present and correct. I also have access to replacement dial faces. So if the internal dial gauge mechanism ( bourdon tube) is OK, I can refurbish to nearly new with a bit of brass polishing.The beauty of these pumps is their simplicity of design with bolted and split pin construction so they can easily be dismantled and overhauled. The interior leather pressure washer on the piston is easy to replace – but not of a standard size – so needs to be made specially (see instructions elsewhere on this site). The sound of the pumping with these pumps is noteworthy – a throaty, powerful sound.
In 1924, the British Goodrich Rubber company - a subsidiary of the American firm B F Goodrich - took over Wood Milne. British Goodrich continued to make pumps to the Wood Milne design patent (but under the British Goodrich brand) up until around 1934, when they changed their name to the British Tyre and Rubber Company (BTR). Manufacture of pumps seems to have ceased at this point.
This history accounts for the almost identical design of British Goodrich pumps and the earlier Wood Milnes. A British Goodrich pump to a Wood Milne patent therefore dates from between 1924 and 1934.
In addition to the Wood Milne patent pump, British Goodrich also made a tiny portable footpump. This is of a completely different design - only a few inches high - sometimes referred to as a 'ladies handbag pump'.
William Turner and Bro. Ltd, of Eyre Lane Sheffield started business in the late 1890’s and made a range of pumps under the KISMET brand name. Rumour has it that Turner named his company after attending and being impressed with the KISMET musical opera.
Turners were probably the most prolific of the quality pump makers and pneumatic engineers in the first half of the 20th century. They made an incredibly wide range of high quality pumps to suit all tastes, pockets and storage spaces. They were very 'market aware' - increasing the range of their products and reducing sizes as motoring slowly spread to the masses. They also produced a most interesting and humorous range of adverts and promotional material to help market their products.
Several types of KISMET pump were issued in the tool kits of quality cars such as Rolls Royce and Bentley. They also supplied heavy-duty military issue examples for use by the Army and Air Force in WW2. In the RAF they were used, among other things, for pressurising the pneumatic systems of Spitfires and Hurricanes during ground maintenance and repair. These military issue pumps, with their distinctive Air Ministry and Crown Property (broad arrow) logos are extremely collectable.
The big pumps are huge - e.g. the Kismet Garage – but the beautiful little Kismet ‘Baby’ is many people’s favourite. The Kismet Duplex and Kismet Duplex Masters are the flagship models– high quality double acting ‘supercharged’ pumps with an intricate internal design with a number of leather glands, washers and seals. These are capable of in excess of 300 psi. Elsewhere in the range one finds the ‘Scooterflator’, ‘Car’, ‘Junior ‘, ‘Popular’, ‘Sequel’, 'Kismet 85' and ‘Lorry’. The Junior was produced in two versions - single acting and double acting - the latter having a miniaturised version of the same internal supercharged arrangement as the big Duplex or Duplex Master. This is quite a rare model. At the top end of the range is the massive Duplex trolley compressor - a beast on wheels, intended for relatively static garage use.
Turner also manufactured the famous RENRUT universal valve connector as an optional extra on their pumps. ( RENRUT = TURNER spelt backwards!). A working RENRUT connector is a great prize if you can get one - see details on the Connectors page.
It’s a matter of great sadness that this firm finally ran out of puff and closed sometime in the 1950’s. If you are in Sheffield, find Eyre Lane (somewhere near the station) which is where the factory was located. There is some information the WWW too – look at the Sheffield history site - but the full history of Wm. Turner and Bro. Ltd is waiting to be written!
STOP PRESS - I've just had contact with a lady who is a descendant of William Turner in Australia. She has some material herself and is composing a history of the firm. I've supplied her with much of what I have. Her name is J. Smith and she can be contacted at - email@example.com. If there is anyone with information she could use, please do get in touch with her.
Bedford is a rarer foot pump not made in the same volumes as many other brands. The two I've had the pleasure of dismantling and overhauling, are big heavy duty single stage examples whose brass cylinder polishes up beautifully. As well as being solid pieces of engineering they are definitely worth a place in the living room display cabinet.
Aerite are neat, functional little pumps, manufactured under this brand name by Walters and Dobson (see below) - with a good build quality and (generally) screw fittings to enable them to be dismantled. All the ones I've seen operate on the single stage principle - one piston in one cylinder pushing out air at the end! Because of their relatively small size, you often need to keep up the pumping frequency with your foot to get a good volume of air goingThey don't usually have inbuilt non-return valves. So I think that when originally supplied they would have had NR valves in the hose connector at the pump end. But I've seen a number without this - maybe hose replaced later in life? Sometimes those without NR valves in the hose connector do get air into the tyre successfully - but high frequency pumping is needed! I carefully examine all Aerites when overhauling to check the NR valve situation and fully rest on a tyre to 50psi. I also advise on the NR valve situation. Aerites don't usually have pressure test valves or pressure indicators - not the ones I've seen anyway
Sutty whose pumps are mostly smaller, similar to Aerite. These come in a range of pretty colours some come with a dial type pressure gauge on the pump.
Walters and Dobson Ltd. (WAD) were a Sheffield manufacturer who made a range of high quality pumps. The range included an advanced and beautifully designed double acting pump and a series of single acting examples of various sizes. The firm was jointly founded in 1922 by William Mansfield Dobson (b.16 Feb 1896, d.15 Feb 1965) and Booth Walters (b.12 Aug 1895, d.23 Mar 1983) .
WAD were in business in the same time period as the more famous Sheffield pump maker, Wm.Turner and Bro. (Kismet). Apparently, Wm. Turner and Walters & Dobson were very close for as long as the original owners were in place. In fact during WWII the two companies worked together in support of the war effort and some details of their pump designs "crossed over".
Following World War II the WAD business was never the same due to ill health and responsibilities relating to the defence of the realm during the war. For instance, W.M.Dobson’s health suffered badly due partly to him being CO of the local Home Guard and Anti Aircraft Command Battery during the war. The firm passed onto the next generation after the founders and eventually, the Motor Accessories activity (including pumps) was sold . The intellectual property rights e.g. registered designs, patents etc. of this business were acquired by PCL (Pneumatic Components Ltd) also of Sheffield.
As a matter of interest, I have recently supplied a restored WAD pump to the son of William Mansfield Dobson, one of the founders. He wanted it for his family history project, never having seen one in his life and wanting to tell his son about the pumps! I am indebted to this elderly gentleman for providing me with the above information on the history of the firm and its founders.
WAD also manufactured lightweight, less heavy duty pumps under the ‘Aerite’ brand in Chesterfield
Hattersley and Davidson (H&D) were one of the smaller pump makers in Sheffield in the first half of the 20th century. The origins of the firm and founding date are not clear, but a very early reference is found in the Autocar magazine of 1900 – which contains details of the 1900 Cycle Show at Crystal Palace. Here H&D are mentioned as exhibitors of a ‘very powerful double barrelled pump’
So, in 1900, H&D were clearly established in the pumps business and exhibiting on a national stage. The double barrelled pump was probably a forerunner and part of the early development of their famous three cylinder ‘Multistage’ pump - see picture on my home page. This is one of the of the most striking of all vintage pump designs and considered the ultimate ‘work of art’ by many enthusiasts and collectors. The firm also made standard single stage pumps and also a large dessicator - for drying air expelled from a foot pump.
In Grace’s Guide of 1937, and in the Aeroplane 1937 (Directory of Aviation and Allied Industries), H&D’s address is given as Norfolk Street, Sheffield and the firm are described as ‘Engineers, Brassfounders and Pump Manufacturers’ Certainly the beautiful brass work and logo on their Multistage pump demonstrate high level skills in working with brass.
Hattersley and Davidson also manufactured high quality stirrup pumps.
Desmo I've got a couple of these, similar to the small Aerite and Sutty pumps with similar build quality.
Pec Marton NZ I have one of these from New Zealand, roughly the same size as a medium Dunlop, and very well built. Anyone from New Zealand can tell me more...
G & Co I've one example of this pump with 1943 stamped on the footplate, works well but I know nothing of the firm.
Solid single acting pumps of various sizes were manufactured by the Prima company of Birmingham. The two commonest models were the Prima 555A and the Prima 'Improved' 102. These prima pumps require a non return valve in the air outlet
Founded in 1938, when the first pressure gauges were designed and manufactured in Sheffield, PCL started somewhat later than many of the other major pump makers.
The company was founded, apparently, as a result of a squabble between the Turner brothers (of the famous Kismet Company in Sheffield). One of the brothers broke away and founded the rival PCL enterprise.
The firm is still in existence making a range of pneumatic equipment. In their vintage pump years, from 1938, they made a range of heavy duty, high quality foot pumps of different sizes. The quality level was important in order to compete with Kismet and they are indeed of equal quality, design and workmanship. With names like Emperor, Royal and Elf, these pumps are very pretty and extremely efficient.
They're definitely an asset to any collection, being equally at home as a beautiful object in the living room or in regular garage use. All the PCL pumps I've seen are of the single acting variety - there was no double acting model to compete with the Kismet Duplex.
Ernest H. Hill Ltd was established as an engineering and manufacturing company in 1841. Founded and still based in Sheffield, England, the Hill company has been involved in the innovation, design and manufacture of fluid transfer equipment for the last 160 years.
Amongst the early products, under the long established trademark Nesthill (derived from the founder’s two names) , was an air compressor pump designed for a veterinary surgeon John Boyd Dunlop which was developed to inflate the prototype pneumatic tyre he had invented for his bicycle. So the Hill company has been involved making tyre inflation equipment since the very start!
In the first half of the 20th century they made a range of foot pumps for cars , including the ‘Major’, ‘Compact’ and ‘Jupiter’. These were suitable for all manner of vehicles. Nesthill pumps were supplied as standard accessories in the toolkits of many of the large, high quality cars of the 1920’s and 1930’s, such as the Rolls Royce PII, PIII and big Daimler. Nesthill pumps are highly collectable and much sought after.
In 1907, the company was one of the earliest to incorporate as a Limited Liability Company and became and continues to this day to be involved in various aspects of fluid transfer technology and pneumatic engineering.
This is a particular model of pump, made by many different manufacturers. Pumped by hand, it is called a stirrup pump because during pumping you hold it down by standing with your feet on two stirrups.