eBay Find of Week: Antique Water Pump Has Middletown Ties

William Douglas of Middletown was granted the very first patent for pumps by none other than Andrew Jackson, president of the United States on Aug. 20, 1835. Ebay is auctioning off a cast-iron relic for $150.


I think I might love history because growing up I loved a good mystery. And I read an awful lot. To the point of, by age 13, I could run my finger across many of my library's fiction book stacks and have to really search for one I hadn't read.

And this story supports my — OK, yet unproved — theorum that everything, in the end, hearkens back to Middletown. Kind of like Six Degrees of Separation. Or of Kevin Bacon.           

As a journalist, too, I'm always piecing together information or crafting a story, this time non-fiction. It wasn't until I was older that I realized I absolutely love history. Like some people salivate over finding a dime in the pay phone coin return slot. Or 99-cent matinees.

Whoops — dating myself.

Every so often, I search eBay for "Middletown, Connecticut" and something pops up besides postcards. What popped up was a robin's-egg blue pump under the heading, "Antique c1840s W&B Douglas Cast Iron Hydraulic Water Well Pump #2." Opening bid — $150.

I remembered writing something about the Douglas Pump Co. a year ago when I visited the Middlesex County Historical Society and Executive Director Deborah Shapiro gave me a tour of the back lawn.

“We also have the piece over the portal of the WB Douglas Pump Co., the people who made well pumps in the 1830s [originally located at the corner of Broad and William streets]," she told me at the time.

The eBay seller provides some interesting details as to the pump's size. "It is painted blue and measures 6½ inches in diameter by 11 inches wide across to spout and 19-inch-long handle and weighs 15 lbs. Good condition."

A little history is also provided: "William Douglas was born in 1812 at Branford. He left home young to join his brother John, who carried on a brass foundry and machine works at New Haven, Connecticut. In 1832, he went to Middletown and began manufacturing steam engines and other machinery in connection with WH Guild under the firm Guild & Douglas.

"He continued in the business for six years and during this time, he received the first patent for pumps, which was granted in August 1835. In 1839, with brother Benjamin, he began the manufacture of pumps and hydraulic rams and soon invented the revolving stand pump."

Our trusty family copy of "1635-1885 History of Middlesex County Connecticut" says about William Douglas, "One invention and improvement followed another, the active brain of William Douglas being continually at work, never tiring, never resting. As soon as his brain conceived an invention it was immediately brought forth by the mechanical genius of the man and put to a practical test."

Sounds like he'd be a cool Facebook friend.

It gets better. Our very own Douglas was granted the very first patent for pumps by none other than Andrew Jackson, president of the United States on Aug. 20, 1835.

I told you Middletown was a cool place to live.

Now if I only could convince my 14-year-old son that history is really an awesome subject.

That's for another day.


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