Hugh Halligan's Masterpiece Revisited November 28 2012, 7 Comments
When we created Hook & Irons Co. we came up with the Signature Line as way to pay homage to the parts of the fire service that are historically significant-- the parts of the fire service that so many of us feel passionately about. We brainstormed over so many things during those first days, but always, and without question, we were certain that we wanted to create a shirt honoring every fireman's favorite tool, the Halligan bar.
Hugh Halligan on right
Hugh Halligan is an icon of the fire service. With FDNY, he rose to the rank of Deputy Chief and is remembered as a 'fireman's fireman' working on many of the busiest companies in the city. But, he is known best for the tool he invented that is still carried on nearly every fire truck in America. While today's versions may have been refined a bit, and are now built by different manufacturers, they are very nearly the same exact tool that Halligan invented in the 1940's.
The original Halligan tool was made of cross-drop forged from one piece of No. 4140 (high carbon content) steel, and weighed 8 ½ lbs. This was a great improvement in strength and weight over its predecessors, The Claw and Kelly tool. The standard bar was approximately 30” in length, with a 15/16” shaft shaped into a hexagon for grip. The fork was a minimum of 6” long tapered into two well beveled tines. Spacing between the tines allows for a gas valve to be shut off. And stamped into the steel of the forks of the original Halligan tool was Hugh's signature and the letters AM + DG. Chief Halligan was a very religious man and it is widely believed the letters stood for the Latin phrase , Ad Majorem Dei Gloriam or “for the greater glory of God.” This phrase was a favorite of St. Ignatius of Loyola, founder of the Society of Jesus. Pope John Paul II routinely used it in his writings. He would print AMDG in the top left of every page he wrote. The + sign is widely believed to represent a cross.
When creating the shirt, it was important to us to include these elements into the design. We used the original advertisements as inspiration and we picked colors that we thought were as hard-looking as the drop-forged steel of the Halligan tool. The typography is chosen and inspired from the ad, as well as the slogan, "Yes! It is an Ugly Bar." The ribbon at the bottom of the shirt (also taken from the ad) represents the Boston Fire Department who was the first to recognize the genius of the tool and put one on every single truck in Boston.
The genius of the Halligan tool becomes apparent in the hands of a skilled operator and when properly used – provide protection to the arms, hands, and body of the holder during forcible entry operations. Pound for pound, it is the best tool on any rig and paired with a flat-headed axe, the Irons are a Truckie's best friend.
To this day, there are fire companies who still carry and use an original Halligan tool on their rigs. Tools that are nearly 70 years old and still working to this day. Yes, it is an UGLY tool! and yes we are very proud to offer Hook & Irons second Signature Tee--The Halligan Tee.
*All the research for this blog and the t-shirt were done on-line. Information was gathered from a wealth of stories and articles, conversations and forum posts. Thanks to Rob Fisher, Irons and Ladders, and Hugh Halligan's own article entitled, "The Halligan Tool" which appeared in a 1950 issue of WNYF for which most of this research was taken.