Photos via Chicago Car Club.
Technically, the 1954 Packard Henney Junior ambulance that the National EMS Museum intends to restore predates the formal Emergency Medical Services industry by more than a decade. But for a traveling museum that has highlighted both the distant and the recent past of emergency responders, it's still a fitting and welcome vehicle.
"We've wanted to have an ambulance to take to conferences and schools for a while now," said Kristy Van Hoven, the director of the museum. "But we definitely wanted something old and cool looking as opposed to the breadbox ambulances from the Eighties."
Museum officials got their wish when Richard Clinchy, the museum's president, found the Packard for sale in Chicago and arranged to have it donated to the museum, making it the museum's first vehicle. While Van Hoven is still researching its provenance, she believes it initially served as a prison ambulance then was pressed into service as a community ambulance, likely for a police department.
"That makes an interesting opportunity for us to talk about police-EMS partnerships, which were common in big cities before the current fire department-EMS partnerships," she said.
As noted in the National Institutes of Health's history of the formation of the EMS system, state and local efforts to treat and transport injured people remained a patchwork of unregulated services until the Sixties, when President John Kennedy proposed rapid response treatment as one balm for the growing number of traffic-related deaths across the country and when paramedics returning from Vietnam brought advanced training in injury treatment back to the States. The Highway Safety Act of 1966 is generally regarded as the birth of the EMS industry after it "specifically provided for federal involvement to improve EMS plans, ambulance specifications, equipment standards, communications, educational requirements, staffing, and other aspects of caring for medical emergencies."