You’ve seen it pry open locked doors on the TV series Chicago Fire. The history of the firefighter’s Halligan bar shows necessity is the mother of invention.
The Halligan bar is a staple of firefighting equipment, with a rich history that dates back over half a century. This versatile tool is as iconic in the firefighting world as the hard hat and the fire engine.Learn more about the history of the firefighter’s Halligan bar.
Origins in New York City
The Halligan bar was born out of necessity in 1948. A New York City deputy fire chief named Hugh Halligan saw the need for a more efficient tool to help firefighters gain access to burning buildings. His innovative design, which combined several tools into one, revolutionized firefighting.
More Than Opening Locked Doors
The Halligan bar is not just for busting open doors. It’s a multipurpose tool that can pry, twist, punch, and strike, making it indispensable in emergency situations. Its unique design includes a claw, a blade, and a pick, allowing firefighters to break through various obstacles with ease.
However, the road to acceptance was not smooth. There was initial resistance from the Fire Department of New York (FDNY). Folklore suggests that the FDNY did not want to buy the tools from Chief Halligan because of perceived conflicts of interest. Nevertheless, the Halligan was a huge hit with fire companies, and customers of firefighter equipment suppliers expect them to be included in product inventories.
The Halligan bar has become one of the most versatile pieces of equipment used by the fire service today. Its utility and effectiveness are recognized globally, and it is now a standard piece of equipment in fire departments across the world.
Still the Model
While newer tools have come along to do the same kind of tasks as the Halligan, they’re all generally based on the Halligan’s original design. They may have slight deviations in materials, length, or weight, but newer versions are intended to do the same work of prying open doors, smashing windows, and helping clear rooms during searches.
The Halligan has even entered firmly into popular entertainment. The TV series Chicago Fire makes regular use of Halligans, with firefighter characters carrying them, asking for them, and using them to break into buildings, smash windows, and even pry open car doors and trunks.
The program even built a story arc around one character’s invention of an improvement to the Halligan he called the “Slamigan.” Fictional firefighter Joe Cruz came up with the idea of adding a sledgehammer to the Halligan to make it possible for one firefighter to apply enough force to the Halligan to get it to break into a locked door.
The original Halligan tool, an indispensable piece of firefighting equipment, carries a mysterious inscription. The letters “AMDG” are marked on it, which represent the Latin phrase “Ad Majorem Dei Gloriam”—meaning “for the greater glory of God.”
The history of the Halligan bar shows that it is much more than a tool; it is a symbol of the resourcefulness and resilience of the firefighting community. Its invention in New York City all those years ago marked a significant milestone in firefighting history, one that continues to save lives and properties today.