Every soot-smudged wildland firefighter knows the name pulaski – even if they don’t know the man Pulaski.
That’s because Ed Pulaski cemented his legacy when he welded the head of a mattock (or grubbing hoe) onto an axe head.
It turned out to be the ideal tool for hacking a fire break in the woods. One side could chop a tree; the other side could scrape and dig. To this day, the Forest Service issues them to most wildfire crews.
Pulaski, still recovering from his 1910 ordeal, first created the tool in his own blacksmith shop in 1911 and perfected it over the next several years. Similar tools had been in use before for clearing land, but not for firefighting. This new tool was christened the pulaski right from the beginning. Pulaski’s version was the prototype for the tool that the Forest Service, by 1920, was issuing to thousands of firefighters.
The original pulaski tool is housed reverently in a glass case at the Wallace District Mining Museum. You can see the weld line where he attached the mattock head to the axe head. You can see the initials “EP” stamped into the side, signifying Big Ed’s authorship.
Pulaski thought about patenting his invention, but never did. He probably never made a dime off it.
Yet it was this tool, even more than his 1910 heroism, that keeps his name alive today. Now, you can buy updated lightweight or super-sized versions — but they’re still called pulaskis.
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