Henry R. Herr

Henry R. Herr – Pump Pioneer


“Henry R. Herr was probably unaware of the word “pioneer” would be used to describe the business of Herr the Pump Man when he started it in 1914. America was preoccupied with World War I. There was little interest in the mechanical evolution that was taking place on the farm and at home for better living.


The subject of this article is not biographical. It is a discussion of the imprint a man made on the people of Lancaster County. Henry R. Herr (6127) was the son of Abraham B. (2375), Henry (690), John (187), Abraham (9), Abraham (2). He was married to Carrie Sawyer. They had two children, Abram and Carrie.


At the age of 41, he went into the pump business at the corner of North Ann Street and Fulton Street, Lancaster, PA. There he built a concrete block building to house his store, shop and warehouse. At the time homes and farms were dependent upon water supply from hand pumps and hydraulic rams. Henry made a thorough study of hydraulics; new methods of power pumping. He felt a need for a more convenient and less laborious way of obtaining water. He began selling power pumps. His knowledge of hydraulics and commitment to provide quality service made his business a great success.


At that time the pump industry introduced the deep well head, a pump that adapted the rod pump to an electric motor. It was a jack pump that used lever action to raise and lower the rod going down into the well. Later came the deep well turbine that used centrifugal impellers to elevate the water through stages. Simultaneously, the jet pump came on the market which Henry didn’t like because it was inefficient in the amount of horsepower required to raise water. He did not live to see the most efficient and economical pump; the submersible. Henry R. Herr was truly a “pioneer” in the transition from hand pumping to motorized pumping in Lancaster.


Physically, Henry was short and thin with an erudite countenance. He was neat in dress and conservative in his choice of dark clothing. He was not a conversationalist, though friendly to all people. He had a dry wit, but was not humorous. His personal appearance portrayed his philosophy and his success in business.


He published a monthly bulletin entitled “Service”. Beneath the masthead is this quotation, “Quality and service not sacrificed for profit”. The bulletin contained articles such as, “The Economy of Power Grass Cutting Applied to Small Lawns”. Another article was “Points of Importance in Studying Problems of Water Supply”. His bulletins contained a few jokes and a variety of ads. The ads were for gasoline engines, lawn mowers, cement mixers, hydrants, barn equipment, wheelbarrows, used items, and of course his pumping equipment. At the bottom of the page he wrote, “When you need a pump for any purpose, think Herr, the Pump Man. We have it!”  His business philosophy is summed up in this editorial column which he quotes,

“The salesman who makes his customer’s interest his own interest gradually raises himself out of the ranks of order taker. He develops sound interest in friendships throughout his territory. His advice is sought on many matters outside the routine of his own business. Buyers recognize him as an active partner in their enterprises. This is an old world and weary one. You can’t give people too much of what is included in that broad and much used word SERVICE.”


In 1945, at the age of 72, he sold his business to Lester H. Herr, a different lineage to Hans Herr. Lester carried on the business under the same title, Herr the Pump Man, and kept most of the same employees endowed by the spirit, industry and postulate of service of the founder. In 1975 the business was sold to Dan W. Pfister, Sr. who operated under the name Herr Pump Company, Inc.”

-Robert W. Herr