Some Notable “Firsts” in the Fire Service
A Chronicle of the Important Developments in Equipment and Personnel of Fire Departments Over a Period of Twenty Centuries, Concluded from Last Issue
TWO platoons of firemen for full paid Fire Departments originated with Chief James W. Dickinson, of Cleveland, who read a paper favoring that system at a convention of the International Association of Fire Engineers at Minneapolis, August 14, 1888. Cleveland was not the first to adopt that system, but it was the first to grant its firemen one day off duty in every four.
New York was the first to give the two platoon system a trial in one Battalion, from December 5, 1904, to March 5, 1905. It was discontinued on petition of 85 per cent of the firemen of that battalion. The whole department was then given one day off in five. The two platoon system was tried in two Chicago Companies, Engine 40 and Truck 5, both in the same station, for 50 days commencing Oct. 22, 1905. It was given another trial in a whole battalion from August 2, 1906. to April 15, 1907.
Omaha, Neb., First to Adopt Two Platoons
Omaha, Neb., was the first to adopt the two platoon system, nineteen years after Chief Dickinson recommended it at the Minneapolis Convention. Kansas City was the second to adopt it, July 21, 1912, followed by Butte, Mont., February 4, 1913; Seattle, Wash., April 1, Great Falls, Mont., May 1, and Yonkers, N. Y., July 15, 1913.
First Sectional Firemen’s Association
The first state or other sectional firemen’s association was organized at Springfield, Mass., September 27, 1855, and was called the New England Firemen’s Association. It existed for a short time. The next, and the first of the present associations, was the New York State Volunteer Firemen’s Association, organized at Auburn, N. Y., October 1, 1872. The next was the Minnesota State Association, February 14, 1873.
I. A. F. E. Organized
The International Association of Fire Chiefs was organized at Baltimore, October 20, 1873. It was then named National Association of Fire Engineers. It was organized principally through the efforts of Chief John S. Damrell, of Boston, its first president, and was one of the results of the conflagrations at Chicago in 1871 and Boston in 1872.
The next association to be organized was the Northwestern Ohio Firemens’ Association in 1874, Michigan and Texas in 1875, and New Jersey and Pennsylvania in 1879.
Veteran Firemen Organize Association
The first veteran firemen’s association was organized at Boston, December 30, 1833. Its purpose was to man hand engines temporarilly without companies. It existed for many years. The next was the New York Association of Exempt Firemen, organized October 13, 1842, followed by the Philadelphia Volunteer Firemen’s Association, December 14, 1875, the Boston Association, April 9, 1879, Providence, R. I., January 11, 1881, and a great many throughout the country since then.
Commencement of Hand Engine Musters
Musters of hand fire engines commenced at Bath, Maine, July 4, 1859. The largest number ever held in a single season was 32 in 1901; the largest fnuster was in Lowell, Mass., August 20, 1908, with 63 engines. Up to 1932, 1.092 had been held with 4,609 prizes, a total of $5,405. There were 61 musters of steam fire engines, the first being held at Toledo, Ohio, July 4, 1863; the last, at Spencer, Mass., Aug. 24, 1891. The best play ever made at a muster by a steam fire engine is 273 feet, 11J-2 inches by Falmouth No. 4, an Amoskeag engine of Portland, Me., in 1900. The best muster play by a hand engine, 276 feet. 11 inches, at Battle Creek,Mich., in 1860.
Early Types of Uniforms
The uniforms of volunteer and hand engine firemen were practically all red flannel shirts, with white belts for officers and black for privates; dark pants and a glazed leather cap. The blue uniform of the present time came with full paid firemen in 1865.
Commanding officers of old time fire companies used short brass trumpets to give orders. Each piece of apparatus carried two of them. Presentation and parade trumpets of elaborate design, large and costly, came in hand engine times and are now often carried in parades of active and veteran firemen.
There have been many newspapers devoted wholly or in part to firemen. The first was the “Firemen’s Intelligencer,” in New York in 1826. The next was the Firemen’s Advocate, at Boston, in 1850. During the hand engine and volunteer firemen period there were several published in New
T urk. Philadelphia. Detroit and San Francisco. After the civil war, for some years, the principal newspaper for firemen was the “New York Mercury.” a weekly publication devoted to theatrical and sporting news. The first of several firemen’s publications in recent years was the Firemen’s Journal of New York City, established in the year 1877. now FIRE ENGINEERING.
There are many collections of fire service relics. Nearly all of the many veteran firemen’s associations have one or more. There are many private collections. There is but one large collection of old fire apparatus, that of Henry Ford, at Dearborn, Mich.