Invention Geek – Fire Grenade?

Question from Frankie del Fuego:
Hello Geek!
I was wondering if you could figure out when the first fire grenades were patented in the US? I saw some on an antiques show the other night – little glass ‘bombs’ that contain a chemical to help put out fires.
Also, could you tell me where the idea came from? That is, were we the first ones to make these things or is it an older idea?
Thanks a million!
-Frankie del Fuego

Fire grenades were small glass bottles filled with salt water or carbon-tetrachloride and sealed with a cork and cement. These bottles were meant to be thrown into a small room or area at the base of the fire. The glass bottle would then hopefully break and then the contents would put out the fire. When the grenade was filled with carbon tetrachloride, the contents would vaporize immediately into immense volumes of fire extinguishing gas in which combustion can not possibly exist.

Fire grenades were developed around 1860 and they were in use until about 1910 when they were replaced with extinguishers closer to what we use now. The first United States patent for a fire grenade was issued to Samuel B. Johnson on August 8, 1871. He received Patent #117,891 for an improvement in fire-extinguishers. The Harden “Star” Hand Grenade Fire Extinguisher was the most popular brand of extinguisher.

Today the colorful bottles with ornate designs are popular with collectors. They are rare since the bottle was meant to be destroyed. Fire grenades is good condition can be worth upwards of $2,000.

View the patent here.