Dr. Harry M. Archer, Honorary Surgeon, Among Those Honored—List of Awards to Other Fire Department Members for Acts of Heroism

FIRE Commissioner Thomas J. Drennan of New York has approved the findings of the Board of Merit for the year 1923 and has announced the following awards for exceptional bravery in the line of duty: Dr. Harry M. Archer is awarded the James Gordon Bennett medal for the risk he took and the aid he gave two laborers who were pinioned in the debris of a fallen house on the lower east side in the tenement district of the city. Dr. Archer is New York’s honorary medical officer in the fire department. He has the rank of deputy chief of department. He is the foremost fire fan of the city and has been carrying on a mission of mercy and solace among the firemen ever since he was a young medical student at Bellevue Hospital. The department’s ambulance is entrusted to his personal supervision and care. On Good Friday afternoon, 1923, Dr. Archer, then on duty for ten hours at a fatal fire opposite Bellevue Hospital, was called with the department ambulance to the scene of the building collapse on Eldridge Street, where a score or more laborers were caught in the wreckage. In the course of shoring up the floors, walls, etc., Dr. Archer learned that two laborers were trapped beneath the debris.

Dr. Harry M. Archer, Honorary Surgeon, New York Fire Department

To reach them he crawled through an irregular opening in the mass of timbers, boards, plasters and lath. He reached one man who was squeezed between fragments of the fallen floors. Unable to free the imprisoned laborer, Dr. Archer stimulated him with hypodermics. He did this under considerable difficulty, due to the precarious position of both his patient and himself. He then crept through the debris to the other laborer about fifty feet away and administered similar treatment. Both men could not be extricated at that time and to attempt to move them might result in dislodging parts of the debris, which would have been fatal to the physician as well as to his patients. Dr. Archer then tried to make his way out of the mess. He found himself trapped, however, and it was with difficulty that he succeeded in finding an opening. When he did come to a space sufficiently large to permit him to crawl through, his boots wedged in the debris and he had to pull himself out of the boots, making the balance of the journey in his stocking feet.

Next day, Chief Kenlon, of his own volition, wrote Dr. Archer a letter commending him for his heroism. Dr. Archer has the letter in a frame and it hangs in the Firemen’s Cycle Club in which Dr. Archer holds the exalted post of “Janitor.” The club meets in his home once a month. In that letter, Chief Kenlon, in praising Dr. Archer for what he did, refers to the fact that it would not have been considered cowardly had the doctor chosen to forego the risk.

The Board of Merit determined to reward Dr. Archer alone, although there were many other acts of personal bravery at the scene of the collapsed building. In fact there were so many fires in New York City in 1923, involving acts of personal heroism, that the Board of Merit found it difficult to single out the best of them. The other awards are:

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New York Firemen Receive Medals

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Fireman Robert V. Reilly, H. & L. 4, the Hugh Bonner medal for his rescue of a man at the third story window on a ladder while flame and smoke were issuing therefrom. Reilly was so severely burned that he was on the sick list two months.

One fire was so replete with rescues that it produced four heroes, Edward Sullivan and John A. Kelly of H. & L. 35 and John L. Demlein and James P. J. O’Reilly of H. & L. 4. The fire was in a seven story brick dwelling on West 57th street, tenanted principally by theatrical folk. The fire was at six in the morning. It cut off the main stairway and the servants stairway in the rear and also went up the elevator shaft. Trucks 4 and 35 were the first in front of the building.

They shot 65-foot ladders up to several pleading and screaming tenants. The four firemen made exceptional rescues from the top of these ladders.

Lieut. Francis J. Sample of H. & L. 118 will get the Kenny nu-dal for his rescue of a man whom he reached by hanging over the coping of a five-story house. He grabbed the man by the outstretched arms and swung him in pendulum fashion to other willing hands who grabbed the man off him. Sample was anchored to the coping by his legs, held securely by comrades.

William J. Kennedy of Engine Co. 54 will receive medal for his rescue of Mrs. Adele Smith. Mrs. Smith was driven by smoke and fire to the third floor window. There she screamed for help. Kennedy seized a ladder which was short of the third story. He chinned the sill, raising himself up to the ledge. He lifted Mrs. Smith out the window. Just then the flames reached the window and enveloped both of them, hut Kennedy lowered her to the ladder and carried her to the street.

Patrick J. Kissane of H. & L. Co. 122 will receive the Brooklyn Citizens’ medal. At four o’clock in the morning of March 31st at 134 E. 7th St. he mounted a ladder to the third floor window of an apartment house and rescued a man, his wife and their child. He was severely burned and was confined to Bellevue Hospital for some time.

Fireman Thomas J. Hughes, Jr., of Engine Co. 22 will receive the Prentice medal for his rescue of a woman by means of a rope. The fire was at No. 127 West 97th Street at four o’clock in the morning of December 27th. A woman was cut off from escape on the third floor. Hughes procured a rope, fastened it to an iron cross bar on the window of the floor above the fire and slid to the third floor. There he fastened the rope about the woman and lowered her to an adjoining extension roof.

Fireman Louis J. Uher of H. & L. Co. 18 will receive the Scott medal for his rescue of a man at No. 89 Pitt street. Cher crawled into the apartment on the fourth floor where there was a suffocated man in a bedroom. He carried the man through the smoke-filled hallway to the stairway.

The Stephenson medal for the best disciplined fire company last year will go to Capt. John E. Gunn of Engine Co. 31, at Lafayette and White Streets. Capt. Gunn is in command of the largest fire station in this city, where there are five officers, forty-three firemen, a double set of apparatus, a water tower and headquarters of the Chief of the Second Battalion. Capt. Gunn has been in charge there five years. It is one of the busiest in the high hazard section of the city. He is only 37 years of age and is one of the youngest commanding officers in the department, which he entered only thirteen years ago. He rose to the rank of captain in eight years. He is frequently the acting chief of the Second Battalion.

Engine Co. No. 39 wins the Fire College prize for 1923, having performed 21 evolutions in the drill school in the fastest time of all the competing fire companies. No. 39 won the same prize ten years ago when it completed the drill in twenty-four minutes and three seconds. Last year it improved on that record by performing the evolutions in sixteen minutes and five seconds. Each member of the company will receive a medal. The company comprises the following: Captain Frederick C. Reich, Lieut. James E. Lynch, Engineers Richard A. Hughes and Patrick D. McCarthy. Firemen Milton D. Adams, Ciro Alaimo. Peter S. Reynolds. Robert A. Boyd. Frederick lllium. Mathew McGoey. John Sturzenegger. Joseph W. Allen. William H. Schmidt, William J. Walker, and Edmund G. McCann. Only two members. Adams and lllium, were in the prize winning company of ten years ago. W. J. DAI.Y.

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