THE CHICAGO FIRE DEPARTMENT
Ask a citizen of Chicago which one of the city’s institutions he is the proudest of, and nine times out of ten he will answer without hesitation: “Our fire department.” And with justice, for the history of the service, growing with the city at a rate unequaled in the records of municipal development, despite the mast severe trials and misfortunes, to its present wonderful state of strength and efficiency is one to excite both surprise and admiration.
Looking at the army of trained fire fighters, equipped with every device which human ingenuity has devised for quenching flame, and at the great city which they guard so faithfully and well, it is hard to realize that in 1832 we find the first record of the existence of a fire company, which was known as the Washington Volunteer Fire Company, while the future city consisted of about half a dozen buildings. By the next year, however, it had grown to a settlement of 175 buildings and in 1833 Benjamin Jones was made village fire marshal.
THE FIRST ENGINE.
Three years later the first fire engine, the Fire King, appears in the records. The company named after the apparatus was for many years the crack organization of the West. George W. Snow was chief engineer, being succeeded in 1837 by John M. Turner. Up to 1840 there were but two engine companies in the city. The following year witnessed the organization of the Chicago Bag and Fire Guard Company, called jokingly the “ Forty Thieves,” from the canvas hags, cords and wrenches which the members carried as a salvage corps. Prior to 1843 an alarm of fire was given by outcry. After that the court house bell was tolled to signal the outbreak of a fire. In 1S44 the department bad grown to three engine companies—the Neptune Bucket Company, the Pioneer Hook and Ladder Company and the Chicago Fire Guard.
These were the palmy days of the hand engine volunteer service, and as with the growth of the city the department increased in size the rivalry between the volunteer companies became more and more intense, and the fun at fires of that fast and furious kind which the veterans of to-day love to look back upon and talk over, although now that they have become propertyowners themselves they would hardly care to see the old system revive. For the rivalry between the companies was not confined to the innocent amusement of racing each other or striving to get the first stream on a fire.
It was no uncommon sight to see these two companies and their followers mixed up in a row when large quantities of A blood would be spilled while the fire was burning down tha^ house. One of the most desperate fights in the history of the department occurred at the Rock Island depot. The Red Jackets not only whipped the Fire Kings, but they took their engine away from them and turned it over in the ditch.
Of the members of the old volunteer department who have clung to their chosen profession and made their mark in it might be mentioned besides Chief D. J. Swenie, Charles S. Petrie, William Musham, M. W. Shay, Joel Kinney and many more.
CHIEF SWENIE AS A LIFE SAVER.
Chief Swenie had one of his many startling experiences while he was a runner on No. 4, the celebrated ” Red Jackets.” This was in ’52. He worked for C. E. Peck, a manufacturer of harness and fire department supplies at 170 Lake street, and slept in the store. One Sunday morning he awoke early and noticed smoke in his room. Stepping to the window he saw the next building, occupied as a millinery shop, on fire. Knowing that there were three women, a baby and a servant in the burning building, Swenie hastily slipped on his clothes and forced his way into the burning house. He succeeded in rescuing the women, but he had to return for the baby, which had been forgotten. Another return into fire and smoke had to be made for the servant, whose room could only be reached from the rear, but whom he also got safely out.
Sometime in 1852, it is related, the Red Jackets went East to take part in a tournament to be held in Providence, R. I. As the affair was postponed, the Chicago boys remained in New York for a week to try their skill against some of the crack engine companies of that city at the first opportunity that might offer. U. P. Harris, who was chief engineer at the time, was of the party. The Red Jackets had not long to wait for a chance to show themselves in a contest against the crack engines of New York. Thousands of people had assembled in and around the City Hall park, and to most of them it appeared absurd that a company of firemen from the West should attempt to beat the pride of New York. But the Red Jackets did beat them, and did it easily, playing, it is stated, a stream higher than had ever been thrown in New York before.
THE FIRST STEAMER.
The first impulse toward the organization of a paid fire department was given by a great fire in Water and Lake streets in October, 1857, when twenty-three persons, five or whom were firemen, lost their lives. The city council determined to give a practical test to the steam fire engine then coming into vogue, and ordered a steamer capable of throwing four streams 150 feet. February 5, 1858, the engine was delivered and named the “ Long John,” after the late John Wentworth. Chief Swenie was in that year at the head of the department, and about May I of the same year he put it into service with two paid men and four volunteers at the old armory, corner of Franklin and Adams streets. The opposition of the volunteers to the innovation was intense, but Chief Swenie soon recognized its value and within a year two fully paid companies had been organized.
In 1839 U. P. Harris succeeded Mr. Swenie as chief, and under his direction the reorganization of the department went on slowly but surely, until in i860 there were six fully paid steamer companies.
The ^city was then divided into six districts, and after the alarm, which was indicated by eight bells, the number of the districts was sounded. For a general alarm the signal was the continuous ringing of the bells. The next important step in the development of the department was the introduction of the telegraphic fire alarm system in 1865. This system of fire alarms was brought to the notice of the authorities in 1859, but it was looked upon with disfavor foT several years. Finally the authorities took hold of the matter in earnest, and had a system constructed which embraced ro6 street-boxes, fourteen engine-house gongs, the necessary central office apparatus, and about 125 miles of wire. The contract price for the work was $70,000. The early boxes, gongs and other apparatus in the alarm branch of the service were crude in their construction and uncertain in their operation. E. B. Chandler was superintendent of the system until 1876, when he resigned, and was succeeded by John P. Barrett, who is still at the head of this branch of the fire department.
THE GREAT FIRE,
The most important event in the history of the department was its unequal combat with the great conflagration of 1871.
The roster of the department at that time was : R. A. Williams, fire marshal; J. Shank, first assistant; L. Walter, second assistant; Matt Benner, third assistant; Hiram Annick, clerk; B. F. McCarty, John Macauley and C. H. Chapin, fire wardens for the South, North and West divisions respectively; William Horner foreman.
Fire Alarm Office.—E. B. Chander, superintendent; John P. Barrett, chief operator; G. E. Fuller and J. F. Stevens operators; John Kennedy, W. J. Brown and F. W. Gund, repairers.
No. 7 was a relief engine, Benjamin Rice, engineer, located at No. 17’s house, 80 West Lake street.
HOOK AND LADDER COMPANIES.
‘Fhe alarm for the great fire was struck from box 342 at 9.20 p. M., October 8, 1871. The steamer Little Giant was the first to arrive at the scene, or rather where the disaster commenced, on DeKoven street, as the watchman of No. 6 discovered the fire before the alarm was given, which indicated a wrong direction, misleading the engines. When the error was discovered a general alarm was sounded, but meanwhile Chicago had been doomed, for when the engines in force reached the fire it was beyond control. During the conflagration three engines were destroyed, the William James and Liberty, both of which were in the repair shop, and the Fred Gund. in the field under the command of Chief Swenie, the then foreman of the engine. lie was forced to abandon the apparatus at the corner of Canal and Van Buren streets.
The lessons taught by that disastrous blaze as to the need of radical improvements to the water supply system and fire department of the city were at once heeded and the results are to be seen in the splendid systems of to-day.
Of the former chiefs of the departments U. P. Harris, who as before noted succeeded Chief Swenie in 1859, remained in office until 1868, when he retired from the service. lie was followed by R. A. Williams; he in turn resigned in 1873, giving place to Matt Benner, who was in turn followed in 1879 by Chief Swenie.
FORCE OF THE DEPARTMENT.
According to last year’s report the force of the Chicago Fire Department consists of 861 men and 367 horses, 3 fire boats, 1 water tower, 63 steam fire engines, 3 hand engines, 38 four-wheel hose carriages, 24 two-wheel hose carts, 5 hose wagons, 9 hand hose carts, 2 hose carriages and chemical engines combined, 4 two-horse, 10 one-horse and 3 hand chemical engines, 8 turn-table extension trucks, 16 straight frame tracks, 2 small hand trucks, 21 large and 31 small size portable extinguishes, 14 portable pumps, 20 light wagons and 19 two-horse wagons, 5600 feet of ladders and 108,590 feet of hose. The uniformed force, exclusive of the fire marshal’s office, comprised 57 engine companies (including one double company and three fire boats), one of whjch also operates the water tower, 21 hook and ladder companies, 2 chemical engine companies and 5 hose companies.
Since this report, however, the following companies have been organized, each with nine men : Engine Companies 57, 59, 60 61, 62, and Hose Companies 6, 7 and 8, three men each.
Chemical Engine Company No. 3 has been merged into
Hook and Ladder Company No. 19, and Chemical Engine Company No. 2 is now Hose Company No. 4.
The organization of the department is as follows :
D. J. Swenie. fire marshal and chief of brigade.
William M. Musham, first assistant fire marshal and department inspector.
John H. Greene, second assistant fire marshal.
Charles S. Petrie, assistant fire marshal and department secretary.
M. W. Conway, fire inspector.
Chiefs of Battalions.—Patrick O’Malley, 1st; Frederick I. Ries, 2d; Peter Schnur, 3d; Paul F. A. Pundt, 4th; John Campion, 5th; Joseph C. Pazen, 6th; James Heaney, 7th; Leo Meyers, 8th; William H. Townsend, 9th; Nicholas Dubach, 10th; John Fitzgerald, nth; Edward W. Murphy, I2th; Frederick J. Gabriel, 13th.
Clerks.—Joel A. Kinney, William R. Smith, John Glaze, James J. Swenie.
Eugene Sullivan, superintendent of horses ; Thomas Monaghan, driver for fire marshal.
Drivers of Supply Wagons.—Richard Stringer, Fred D. Farr. Alfred Phillips, John Quinn, Lawrence Redmond, Timothy Clifford, Charles Foreman, John J. O’Neil, lieutenant detailed; John Shay, truckman detailed.
THE FIRE PATROL.
An important auxiliary to the regular fire service is the Fire Insurance Patrol, which was organized with one company in 1871, and now consists of four companies. The whole force is under the direction of Superintendent E. T. Shepherd, a fireman with fifteen years of practical experience, having worked his way upward from the position of assistant driver to that which he at present so well fills. The officers under him are : Captain C. W. O’Neil and Lieutenant George Furnald of Company I ; Captain J. A. Hume and Lieutenant W, E. Shepherd, Company 2 ; Lieutenant A. Borgemenke commands Company 3, and Captain P. L. Mullins and Lieutenant W. Strickland, who command No. 4 Company, better known as the “stock yards chemical.” The force includes 130 officers and men, and saves annually many thousands of dollars to the insurance companies.
Superintendent Shepherd ar.d Captain O’Neil are the inventors of the extension pole, an ingenious modification of the theatre brace, by which shelves or piles of goods can be covered in an instant, when without the poles the stuff would soon be ruined by smoke and water. The invention has been already adopted by New Orleans, Milwaukee, New York, Louisville and Kansas City.
THE REPAIR SHOPS.
The repair shops of the department occupy the three-story and basement brick building at Nos. 173 and 175 Sebor street. Assistant Fire Marshal and Department Secretary Charles S. Petrie is also superintendent of these shops. In immediate
charge, however, is Foreman John Ashworth, who entered the repair shops when this branch of the department was first organized, some seventeen years ago, shortly after the great fire.
The permanent working force of the establishment consists of 32 men, besides the foreman, classed as to trades as follows : Painters, 4 ; woodworkers, 4 ; fitters, 4 ; blacksmiths, 4 ; lathe hands, 3 ; brass finishers, 2 ; blacksmiths’ helpers, 3, and one each harness-maker, moider and molder’s assistant. The electrical department is in charge of J. T, Mehren and four practical electricians, who repair all appliances for the electrical branch of the service.
In addition to the above permanent force there is usually a number of substitutes, ranging from four to six men. These are persons who have made application for positions on the regular force as engineers or assistants, and are all supposed to be practical machinists. After passing a rigid medical examination their names are placed on file, and as fast as vacancies occur they are sent to the repair shops, where they get a course of practical training. When through sickness or other causes the engineer of a steamer company is oil duty his place is supplied from the shops, the man ranking first on the list of substitutes being sent out. After substituting for sixty days, should he prove satisfactory, he is appointed to the first vacancy among the engineers and becomes a full-fledged fireman.
The various floors of the building are utilized as follows: In the basement are kept the reserve engines and brass moulds; on the first floor all the heavy work is done; on the second floor the tools are kept, while the electrical and woodwoikers departments occupy the third.
To be able to meet every emergency, five steam engines, two trucks, three four wheeled carriages, six two-wheel carts and three marshal’s wagons are kept constantly on hand, from which supply, should a piece of apparatus be laid up for repair, the necessary article is drawn. A full supply of all needed appliances, such as nozzles, play pipes, couplings, boiler fittings, etc., is kept always on hand.
Nearly all the accidents to apparatus which occur are caused by collision in answering alarms; occasionally, however, they arc damaged while at fires by falling walls.
The shops are kept very busy, cs|>ecially since annexation, when, with the changes incident thereto, a general overhauling of the appartus in the annexed towns, much of it sadly in need of repair, was made. The yearly cost of running the repair shops is $45,000.
THE FIRE-ALARM TKI.KCRAPH AND SUPERINTENDENT BARRETT.
It would be impossible within the limits of this article to give a comprehensive description of the fire-alarm telegraph system, winch is acknowledged to be the most perfect of its kind in use in any city of the United States.
Professor John I’. Barrett, who was long an assistant in the system, became chief operator in 1868 and superintendent in 1876, and try his inventive genius, aided by long practical knowledge and administrative ability, has brought the system to its present state of effectiveness. Among his inventions introduced into the department may Ire mentioned ” The Joker,” the “Electro-Mechanical Chain-Dropper,” and the “ Musical Detector.” Soon after taking charge of the department, he removed the wires from buildings to poles. There were such strong objections raised against the putting up of more telegtaph poles in the city tlmt Mr. Harrett offered to put his wires under grojnd if the delegation that waited on him would fur nish the money. This was done, and the poles were taken down and the wires laid under ground. This gave such general satisfaction that it suggested the plating of all telegraph wires under ground. Besides improving the fire-alarm system Mr. Barrett has done much toward perfecting the present police telephone service and the telephone system by which the vessels in the river arc managed. Under the old plan vessels went in and out as they saw fit. Now they are handled from one office by telephone connection with the bridge tender, and are sent in and out in fleets.
The lighthouse service is indebted to Mr. Barrett for a contrivance by which a man at the water-works lights the incandescent lights in the lighthouse 1800 feet away, and when ther” is a fog the same man rings the fog-bell in the lighthouse. This is an important matter, as when the light is most needed it often happens that the water is so rough as to make it impossible to reach the lighthouse. In the whole fite-alarm system it has been the aim of Mr Barrett to have everything work automatically with speed and certainty. This has been accomplished to a greater degree in the Chicago fire-alarm department than in any other city in the country.
A MODEL ENGINE HOUSE.
In our supplement this week we give a view of one of the modern houses of the Chicago department, that of Engine Company No. r, together with the apparatus and company ready for a run. The house is located at 271 Fifth avenue, near Jackson street, in the heart of the business district. Here, when not at his offices in the city hall, First Assistant Marshal Musham makes his headquarters.
The building, which was erected in 1886, is built of brick, with brown stone trimmings. It covers an area of 120 by 42 feet, and is 60 feet high, 3 stories and basement.
The apparatus housed consists of a water tower, steam engine, hose carriage and marshal’s wagon, and is manned by a force of fifteen men, captained by M. K. Driscoll. In the basement of the building all damaged and worn out hose belonging to the department is stored ; as much of it as is worth redeeming is repaired and again put in service. On the main floor, of course, is the apparatus, together with seven horses, all ready for instant service. In the centre of the floor is a wide staircase leading to the second story, where are the living rooms of the members.
You enter a room 22 by 46, which is a general lounging ami smoking room. Along the wall are ranged a number of closets, one for each member, where all his clothes are neatly stowed away. Several tables, on which arc the leading papers and magazines of the day, combine to give the room a cozy and homelike appearance. Passing to the right, you enter the sleeping apartments, which occupy the front of the building, a space of 42 by 60 feet. Here are ranged the cots, one for each man.
Four brass sliding poles run from this to the main floor, so that no time is lost in answering alarm:-. A small partition divides this room from that occupied by the officers. Marshal Musham occupies a small well furnished room, as do also the captain and lieutenant. On the third floor is stored all new hose purchased for the department, of which a goodly supply is kept constantly on hand. Here also is stored the hay and horses’ fodder. The building is light, ample and roomy ; is finished throughout in hard oak ; fs lighted with incandescent lights, and contains all the latest improvements in the way of electrical fire appliances.
SOME OTHER APPARATUS.
The fire boat Geyser, shown in the illustration, was one of the first of these powerful floating engines to be adopted in the West, and the demonstration of her tremendous water throwing powers and great usefulness for the protection of the water front gave a great stimulus to the building of such boats in other cities. She has two steam fire pumps of the vertical duplex tyj>c, direct acting, each with two steam and two water cylinders, the former 10⅛ inches diameter by 12 inches stroke, the latter 9⅛ inches diameter by 12 inches stroke. The newer boat, the Yoscmitc, is of the same general dimensions as the Geyser, but with somewhat larger pumps.
The Petrie & Ashworth water tower, shown in the cut, has done splendid work at many a hot blaze ; as also has Truck Company No. 9, with its three white horses of whom Captain Patrick O’Donahue is so justly proud. While upon the subject of the apparatua of the department it may be interesting to note that old engine No, to, which as a self-propeller at one time used to cause such consternation in the city streets by her wild dashes into vehicles and lamp posts, and which cost the city so much money for damages and repairs, is still in service, with Samuel Nield as engineer, but for some time has been content to go to fires behind a pair of horses.
We present to our readers with this issue of FIRE AND WATER a supplement containing portraits of Chief Swenie of the Chicago Fire Department ami some of his aides, which will be recognized by hosts of their friends.
D. J. SWENIE.
D. J. Swenie, the present fire marshal and chief of the Chicago Fire Department, has been connected with the department since 1849. At that time he ran with Hose Company No. 3. Two years later he joiued the famous Red Jackets, and remained with that company until it was disbanded in 1854. He then returned to Hose Company No. 3. In 185G he was elected first assistant engineer of the department, which position he held until 1858, when he was elected chief engineer. Soon after his election to the head of the service he began, as elsewhere noted, to organize the paid fire department. In 1859 U. P, Harris was chosen chief, and Mr. Swenie returned to his old company. In 1861 he was made foreman of Liberty Engine No. 7. In 1867 the engine was transferred to another house and he received a new one. When this company moved into new quarters at 38 Chicago avenue his friends in the fire department gave a banquet in his honor. On this occasion Mr.
Swenie received a gold watch and chain, valued at nearly $500. When U. P. Harris was retired in 1868 R. A. Williams was appointed by the fire commissioners to the position. They also tendered Foreman Swenie the position of first assistant, but he declined. He accepted the position, however, in 1873 under Chief Benner. Upon the retirement of Chief Benner in 1879 he was appointed acting chief by Mayor Harrison and confirmed fire marshal and chief of brigade by the city council, which position he has since retained.
First Assistant Fire Marshal W. II. Musham, and Assistant Fire Marshal and Deputy Secretary Chas. S. Petrie, who e faces look down from above Chief Swenie’s, have made reputations for themselves as clear headed, able and zealous officers, and efficient helpers to their chief.
Of Superintendent E. ‘I’. Shepherd of the Fire Insurance Patrol, it need only be said that the underwriters consider him the right man in the right place, and let him know it.
Joel A. Kenney, who is now attached to the clerical department at headquarters, bears the distinction of having joined the department as a member of Volunteer Bucket Company No. 1 as long ago as 1845, and with the exception of about five years, during most of which time he was fighting in the Union army, has been connected with the fire department. He was assistant marshal from 1874 to 1885 when he was, at his own request, detached for special duty at headquarters. lie is 63 years of age.
It is the duty of city and town authorities to urge the attendance of the chief engineers of their fire departments at the convention of the National Association at Springfield, Mass., August II to 14, and to provide for their expenses.