Philadelphia: The Great Experiment
The Volunteers: Firefighters in Philadelphia

Our thanks to Sam Katz, Executive Producer
History Making Productions.

Image from the National Museum of American History, Smithsonian

September 25, 1851

Event: Eagle Fire Hose Company was instituted.

The Eagle Fire Hose Company was organized on September 25, 1851 in the Penn District of Philadelphia County, which was incorporated into Philadelphia in 1854. The Eagle Fire Hose Company no doubt retired at that time as they did not apply for membership into the newly organized Philadelphia Fire Department that was manned by the volunteer fire companies.

August 19, 1833

Event: Marion Hose Company No. 23 is instituted.

The Marion Hose Company No. 23 was founded in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania on August 19, 1833, and operated until March 15, 1871 when Philadelphia’s paid firefighting department was established.

Object: Membership Certificate
From the collection of Lee Ryan

August 17, 1975

Event: Gulf Refinery Fire

Eight members of the Philadelphia Fire Department perished as a result of the fire that took place on this day in 1975.

Lt. James J. Pouliot
John J. Andrews
Carroll K. Brenek
Ralph J. Campana
Robert J. Fisher
Hugh J. McIntyre
Roger T. Parker
Joseph R. Wiley

On August 17th 1975, a South Philadelphia refinery owned by the Gulf Oil Corporation caught fire. This 11 alarm fire raged for more than 24 hours. During the course of battling the fire, 8 Philadelphia Firefighters lost their lives, many more were injured.

On the 45th anniversary of this event, we gathered (virtually), to commemorate their heroic efforts. We hope that you will be able to join us for this virtual memorial, August 17th, 2020.

Join Terry Ruggles as he moderates a panel discussion. Firefighter, FHM Curator Brian Anderson, retired Deputy Chief Robert J. Marchisello, Captain John R. Higgins and retired Firefighter/Curator Henry J. Magee.

August 17, 2020 Thanks to the Second Alarmers and Chief Masi who placed flowers on the memorial plaques this morning. The plaques are located in front of the museum on 2nd Street.

August 14, 1839

Event: Mechanic Fire Company No. 37 was instituted.

The Mechanic Fire Engine Company No. 26 was founded on August 14, 1839 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and operated as a hand engine company until it acquired a steam fire engine in 1859. It operated as a steam fire engine company until March 15, 1871 when Philadelphia’s paid firefighting department was established.

Object: Photo of George Scott, member of the Mechanic Fire Company No. 37.
From the collection of Lee Ryan

July 4, 1791

Event: The Diligent Fire Engine Company No. 10 was instituted.

The Diligent Fire Engine Company No. 10 of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania was founded on July 4, 1791 and was located on the south side of Market Street near Eighth Street. Originally organized as a hand engine company, it acquired a steam fire engine in 1861 and operated as a steam fire engine company until March 15, 1871 when Philadelphia’s paid firefighting department was established.

July 12, 1851

Event: Spring Garden Fire Engine Company No. 41 was instituted.

The Spring Garden Fire Engine Company No. 41 was founded on July 12, 1851 in the Spring Garden section of Philadelphia. Originally organized as a hand engine company, whose motto was “Ever ready to assist the needy,” it acquired a steam fire engine in 1864. The Spring Garden operated as a steam fire engine company until March 15, 1871 when Philadelphia’s paid firefighting department was established. Engine 18 of the newly organized Philadelphia Fire Department occupied the former company’s building.

July 15, 1869

Event: The Fire Insurance Patrol (FIP) is placed in service. The patrol was created to service buildings that suffered water damage after a fire. Our Historian’s Blog has a full history. Read more and see the photos.

July 22, 1837
Event: Moyamensing Hose Company No. 27 was instituted.

The Moyamensing Hose Company No. 27 was founded on July 22, 1837 in the Moyamensing section of Philadelphia. With the adoption of steam fire engines by the hand engine companies the hose companies were required to acquire new hose lines because of the increased pressure. Around 1863, with an acknowledgement to the new firefighting technology, the “Moyas,” as they were known, adopted the name “Moyamensing Steam Forcing Hose Company” No. 27.

In an effort to deflect the consequences of a notorious riot caused by the Moyamensing with the Hibernia Fire Company in early 1870, the Moyamensing purchased and used the name of the “Philadelphia Hose Company No. 1” and operated out of their own firehouse. They served until March 15, 1871 when Philadelphia’s paid firefighting department was established.

Date: August 6, 1805

Event: Neptune Hose Company No. 6 was instituted.

The Neptune Hose Company was founded on August 6th, 1805 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.  With its motto “To save our fellow citizens, we hazard ourselves” the company operated until March 15, 1871 when Philadelphia’s paid firefighting department was established.

We have historical/archive services

Looking for historical information about Philadelphia firefighters or fire stations, or other information about the Philadelphia Fire Department?

We can help. We will be glad to research the files and find the information you need. Visit our gift store to purchase a request for research.

Archival information is also available through the Philadelphia Area Consortium of Special Collections Libraries.