Thermos on an Ambulance?

Nicholas Studer

PCS Elected Director 2022-2025
At least until 1967, S&S pictured a bracket for a Thermos vacuum bottle as a standard featurd (see photo). So important for rescue work was the Thermos - it occupied space next to the fire extinguisher on the side of the dispensary cabinet. My Eureka has similar placement on the passenger side by the resuscitator compartment. ( Review of contemporary Eureka ambulances in Mr. McPherson's book show this to be common during Eureka's operation until 1964 - with one late 1950s ambulance mounting FOUR Thermos bottles above the partition cabinet. Advertisements for Henney and other companies also prominently indicate Thermos bottles as a feature going back into the 1940s.

I'm as much a fan of a hot beverage on a long, cold day of lifesaving as anyone else - but I note the bottles never seem to be mounted up in the cab with the crew. It seems to have had some patient care purpose, although I find no mention of the reasoning in sales literature or the Trade & Industrial Emergency Victim Care Manual provided by Ohio at the time. (

My best guess with no first-hand experience or primary source literature to review thus far is that it would replace the sink with hot/cold running water that was an option on some high-end vehicles until the 1950s. Perhaps for handwashing or rinsing instruments/equipment? Making warm/wet dressings? Maybe it was for emergency coffee for active rewarming of hypothermic patients? When you think about it - especially with so much ambulance service provided by funeral homes and volunteers in the 1940s-1960s, was someone really taking the time to keep a hot thermos at the ready!?!

I've got plenty of hair-brained ideas, no need for more wild guesses I suppose. Perhaps I've overlooked something in the literature available out there? I know we have a few antique ambulance crewmembers (Calling Paul Steinberg!) - maybe they can shed some insight.


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Nicholas Studer

PCS Elected Director 2022-2025
Paul Steinberg informed me by phone that as an attendant at West Orange FAS - they typically used the Thermos to carry water to wash their hands off.