The Halligan Tool: A Life-Saving Tool from Thieves

It was a terrible fire that left a home in ashes. An investigation later revealed that the cause of the fire probably resulted from a burglary. In the ashes was a pry bar that the investigators thought was used to enter the home.

When the Chief of the New York City Fire Department saw the pry bar, he had an idea. Chief Hugh Halligan was a veteran firefighter and had experienced the inefficiencies of the present tools to gain access to burning structures.

The Claw Tool was too heavy, and it was off-centered making it difficult and unsafe to use. Another firefighter had redesigned the claw tool, but it too had disadvantages. Both the Claw tool and the Kelly tool (named for its inventor) had to be used to gain access to a building.

When Chief Halligan saw the tool used by the thieves, he got an idea for an improved tool. The tool he designed could be used with one hand, it was lightweight, and it was safe.

The Halligan bar consisted of a fork, a wedge, and a tapered pick. The bar could be used for almost any type of entry by prying open a door, twisting a lock to break it, or punching through the door or latch mechanism.

Chief Halligan began to sell the tool he had developed. Unfortunately, the FDNY could not purchase it because of the conflict of interest in that it would enrich the fire chief. Other fire departments had no conflicts, and the Halligan bar became a standard tool for firefighters.

Chief Halligan was a very religious man, and when he developed the second generation of the Halligan Tool, he had the letters AMDG imprinted on each tool representing the Latin phrase Ad Majorem Dei Gloriam (for the greater glory of God). It was his prayer for the safety of those using his tool.

What began as a tool used by thieves has saved countless lives. It has also been used to extract people from wrecked vehicles or to shut off leaking gas meter values. For many, the Halligan tool has become as versatile as the Swiss Army Knife.

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“Man is a tool-using animal. Without tools he is nothing, with tools he is all.” – Thomas Carlyle (author/essayist)

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