Main content

Fireman's Hall Museum subject files


Held at: Fireman's Hall Museum [Contact Us]147 North 2nd Street, Philadelphia, PA , 19106

This is a finding aid. It is a description of archival material held at the Fireman's Hall Museum. Unless otherwise noted, the materials described below are physically available in their reading room, and not digitally available through the web.

Overview and metadata sections

"The Philadelphia Fire Department's mission is to protect the public safety by quick and professional response to emergencies and through the promotion of sound emergency prevention measures. This mandate encompasses all traditional firefighting functions, including fire suppression, with 60 engine and 30 ladder companies deployed throughout the City; specialized firefighting units for the City's two airports and the Port of Philadelphia; investigations conducted by the Fire Marshall's Office to determine the origins of fires and to develop preventative strategies; prevention programs to educate the public in order to increase overall fire safety; and support services such as research and planning, management of the Fire Communications Center within the City's 911 system, and operation of the Fire Academy.

"Ordinances of 1840, 1855, and 1856 established a City Fire Department which was a voluntary association of independent fire companies which, in return for subsidies, accepted the direction of City Councils. An ordinance of 29 December 1870, established Philadelphia's first fully paid and municipally-controlled Fire Department, administered by seven Commissioners chosen by Councils. [The Department went into service on 15 March 1871.] The Commissioners were abolished and the department placed under the control of the Department of Public Safety as the Bureau of Fire in 1887 in compliance with the 1885 Bullitt Bill and enabling ordinance of 1886. The Fire Marshal, first appointed on 1864, was a member of the Bureau of Police until 1937 when his office was removed from it and placed directly under the Director of the Department of Public Safety. In 1950 it was transferred to the Bureau of Fire. The City Charter of 1951 abolished the Department of Public Safety and established the present Fire Department. At that time its inspectorial duties were transferred to the Department of Licenses and Inspections. On 14 February 1972, the Office of Emergency Preparedness, which had been organized in January 1952 as the Philadelphia Civil Defense Council, with the Mayor as Director, merged with the Fire Department and the Office was placed under the direct jurisdiction of the Fire Commissioner."


Quoted text from: City of Philadelphia Department of Records. "Agency Information: Fire Department (Record group 74)." November 8, 2000. Accessed May 10, 2012.

This collection consists of newspaper and scholarly articles, copies of primary source materials, and some original photographs pertaining to the Philadelphia Fire Department, its history, activities, and related topics. This collection is arranged into three groupings: subject binders, research in response to reference queries, and extra alarm files.

The first grouping in this collection is binders compiled by subject. Subjects include the Philadelphia Volunteers, fire apparatus, annual run statistics, apparatus inventory and location and company equipment (1871-2000), and various other topics. An inventory of these binders is available on-site.

The second grouping consists of files compiled by the museum on topics researched in response to reference queries. These files include correspondence with patrons and photocopies of results of research.

The third grouping consists of research compiled by Philadelphia Fire Department historians on all Extra Alarm Fires from 1871 to present. The more recent volumes include detailed information culled from Philadelphia Fire Department communication logs. These more recent volumes include a record of the location of fire, equipment dispatched, and arrival/departure times.

Materials compiled by Philadelphia Fire Department Historians and staff/volunteers of the Fireman's Hall Museum.

Summary descriptive information on this collection was compiled in 2011-2012 as part of a pilot project conducted by the Historical Society of Pennsylvania to make better known and more accessible the largely hidden collections of small, primarily volunteer run repositories in the Philadelphia area. The Hidden Collections Initiative for Pennsylvania Small Archival Repositories (HCI-PSAR) was funded by a grant from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

This is a preliminary finding aid. No physical processing, rehousing, reorganizing, or folder listing was accomplished during the HCI-PSAR project.

In some cases, more detailed inventories or finding aids may be available on-site at the repository where this collection is held; please contact Fireman's Hall Museum directly for more information.

Fireman's Hall Museum
Finding Aid Author
Finding aid prepared by Celia Caust-Ellenbogen and Michael Gubicza through the Historical Society of Pennsylvania's Hidden Collections Initiative for Pennsylvania Small Archival Repositories
This preliminary finding aid was created as part of the Historical Society of Pennsylvania's Hidden Collections Initiative for Pennsylvania Small Archival Repositories. The HCI-PSAR project was made possible by a grant from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.
Access Restrictions

Contact Fireman's Hall Museum for information about accessing this collection.

Collection Inventory

Print, Suggest