Table of Contents
The history of firefighting in New Bedford, Mass., began in 1772 with the purchase of the town's first fire engine. Sixty-two years later, in 1834, the New Bedford Fire Department was organized consisting of a Protecting Society, one hook and ladder company, and seven engines, each with its own name and company of volunteer firemen headed by a foreman or captain. Between 1850 and 1900, New Bedford boasted as many as twelve engine companies within its fire department. While the basic structure of the department remained unchanged, during the latter years of the nineteenth century new, (unnamed) motorized engines eventually replaced horse-drawn engines, and firefighters became regular employees instead of volunteers.
Engine companies comprising the local fire department were assisted by the New Bedford Protecting Society,formed in 1829, to help preserve property rescued from fires. A similar organization, the Firemen's Mutual Aid Society, was organized in 1872 to assist firemen injured while on duty. Both of these associations remained active until the mid-1960s.
The New Bedford Veteran Firemen's Association (NBVFA). was established in 1890. Initiated by four fire department veterans, the association's membership was opened to anyone honorably discharged or entitled to honorable discharge from a fire department. Its stated purposes were to "collect and preserve records, papers, relics, and sayings pertaining to the New Bedford Fire Department" and to maintain a hand engine for muster competitions. The association began accepting gifts of artifacts in 1891 and soon moved into what was to be the NBVFA headquarters and museum until about 1955, when the organization disbanded.
Materials in this collection include records collected, generated, or received by the NBVFA between 1890-1952. The bulk of these documents consist of records of the association itself as well as those of individual fire engine companies, 1835-1937, and of the New Bedford Fire Department, ca. 1850- 1950. Also included in this collection are records of New Bedford's Protecting Society, 1895-1948, the New Bedford Firemen's Mutual Aid Society, 1909-1939, and the Massachusetts State Firemen's Association, of which the NBVFA was a member, 1892-1895.
These different categories of materials within this collection are arranged into five sub-groups, beginning with administration and financial records, scrapbooks, and other records of the NBVFA. Most notable among these materials are the organization's constitution and by-laws, 1898; minutes of meetings, 1890-1946; records of a succession of treasurers and financial secretaries, 1891-1952; and scrapbooks, 1860-1952, of clippings concerning local fires, fire department and NBVFA news, civil defense, and related topics. These records are supplemented by correspondence, 1887-1948, primarily consisting of notices of meetings and invitations to fairs and musters, and by a variety of programs, lists, historical sketches, and similar materials, 1863-1948. Also included in these materials are records of the R. A. Pierce and William Logan Rodman chapters of the Massachusetts Department of the Grand Army of the Republic, 1865-1938, containing several letters to the NBVFA.
Sub-group 2 encompasses records of individual New Bedford fire engine companies dating between 1835-1937. Arranged into chronological series by name of company, these materials include minutes; membership records; logs of station duties, supplies and fire alarms; and financial accounts.
New Bedford Fire Department records in Sub-group 3 principally consist of manuals on equipment and duties, 1897-1915; communiques, orders, and notices from Chief Edward Dahill or his assistants, 1921-1929; correspondence, 1915-1944; and fire alarm box directories, 1871-1944. Also included among these records are civil defense instructions developed during the Second World War and numerous tickets, programs, election advertisements, and related documents, 1910-ca. 1950.
Records of the New Bedford Protecting Society and the New Bedford Firemen's Mutual Aid Society in Sub-group 4 and 5, respectively, consist of rules and regulations, correspondence, lists and announcements, and similar items, 1894-1948. The final sub-group in this collection contains annual convention proceedings of the Massachusetts State Firemen's Association.
In addition to these records, the Old Dartmouth Historical Society also owns many artifacts relating to the New Bedford Fire Department which are part of the museum collection. A list of most of these objects is available in the Collection File for Mss 31.
Arrangement of Collection
Access to the Collection
Unrestricted. Consult librarian for an appointment.
New Bedford Whaling Museum Research Library Mss 31 [sub-group, series, sub-series, folder/volume as appropriate], [item]
The copyright law of the United States (Title 17, United States Code) governs the making of photocopies or other reproductions of copyrighted materials. The Privacy Act of 1974 (5 United States Code 552a) governs the use of materials that document private individuals, groups, and corporations.
Under certain conditions specified in the law, libraries and archives are authorized to furnish a reproduction if the document does not infringe the privacy rights of an individual, group, or corporation. These specified conditions of authorized use include:
- non-commercial and non-profit study, scholarship, research, or teaching
- criticism or commentary
- as a NBWM archives preservation or security copy for research use
- as a research copy for deposit in another institution
If the researcher later uses a copy or reproduction for purposes in excess of "fair use," the researcher is personally liable for copyright. privacy, or publicity infringement and agrees to indemnify the New Bedford Whaling Museum from any legal action as a result of the error. Permission to obtain a photographic, xerographic, digital, or other copy of a document does not indicate permission to publish, exhibit, perform, reproduce, sell, distribute, or prepare derivative works from the document without permission from the copyright holder and from any private individual, group, or corporation shown or otherwise recorded.
Permission to publish, exhibit, perform, reproduce, prepare derivative works from, sell, or otherwise distribute the item must be obtained separately in writing from the holder of the original copyright (or if the creator is dead, from his/her heirs) as well as from any individual(s), groups, or corporations whose name, image, recorded words, or private information (e.g. employment information) may be reproduced in the source material. The holder of the original copyright is not necessarily the New Bedford Whaling Museum. The New Bedford Whaling Museum is not legally liable for copyright, privacy, or publicity infringement when materials are wrongfully used after being provided to researchers for "fair use."
This institution reserves the right to refuse to accept a copying order if fulfillment of the order is judged in violation of copyright or federal or state privacy law. This institution also places restrictions on the use of cameras, photocopiers, and scanners in the research room.
Removed to Photographs Collection
- Stereopticon slides of Boston Fire, 1872. 12 items.
- Tintype of fire company, ca. 1890.
- Steel engraving of firefighter, ca. 1900.
- Printed photograph of Merchants National Bank building in New Bedford, ca. 1900.
- Pen and ink caricatures of New Bedford firemen, 1931. 2 items.
- Photographs of man playing President Lincoln for Grand Army of the Republic function, ca. 1940. 2 items.
- Pages out of scrapbook with photographs of firemen and equipment, 1898, 1918. 2 items.
- Photograph portraits of New Bedford and Boston, Mass., firemen, ca. 1890-1920, ca. 1950. 155 items.
- Photographs of fire equipment, ca. 1890-1920. 6 items.
- Drawing of fire engine, ca. 1890.
- Photograph of landscape, ca. 1890.
- Drawing of nude and cupid, ca. 1890.
- Reverse photograph on glass, in frame, of fireman, ca. 1880.
Removed to Printed Collection
- Advertisement for Akron Brass Manufacturing Co., Inc., Wooster, Ohio, ca. 1950.
- Advertisement for F.N. McIntire Brass Works, Boston, Mass., ca. 1950.
- Advertisement for Pyrene Manufacturing Co., Newark, N.J., ca. 1950
- Advertisement for Willys-Overland Motors, Toledo, Ohio, ca. 1950
- "Application for Enrollment," Massachusetts Committee on Public Safety, A.R.P. Organization, ca. 1941.
- City of New Bedford. List of Fire Alarm Boxes and Street Directory, 1892. 2 copies.
- City of New Bedford. Official Fire Alarm, Street Directory . . .1895.
- Constitution and By-laws of the Charlestown Volunteer Veteran's Firemen's Association, 1895.
- Constitution and By-laws of Columbian Engine Co., No. 5., New Bedford, Mass., 1858.
- Constitution and By-laws of the Lowell Veteran Firemen's Association, 1892.
- Constitution and By-laws of Torrent Engine Company, No. 2, of Gardner, Mass., 1857.
- Constitution, Rules of Order and Order of Business of the Veteran Firemen's Association of Fall River, Mass.,1890.
- Costello, Augustine E. Our Firemen: A History of the New York Fire Department, 1887.
- Crump, Irving. The Boy's Book of Firemen, 1916.
- Dartmouth Fire District No. 1. Thirty-third Annual Report, 1949.
- Dartmouth Fire District No. 3. Twenty-sixth Annual Report, 1948.
- Dominion Association of Fire Chiefs. 16th Convention, 1924.
- Dunshee, Kenneth Holcomb. Enjine!-Enjine!, 1939.
- "Fire Alarm," ca. 1940.
- Fire Fighting, June 1935.
- Fireman's Herald,6 September 1913.
- Graham, Frank. The Story of Andy Blue, 1932.
- Grand Army of the Republic. Department of Massachusetts. - R. A. Pierce Post No. 190. Forms, ca. 1890. 2 items.
- Grand Army of the Republic. Department of Massachusetts. William Logan Rodman Post No. 1. Installation of officers souvenir, 1903.
- Hale, George C. History of the World's Greatest Fires, 1905.
- Harding, J.H. Romance of the Soul and other Poems, 1911.
- Head of Westport Fire Association, Westport, Mass. Souvenir program, 1949.
- Jenness, Herbert Theodore. Bucket Brigade to Flying Squadron, 1909.
- Kernen, J. Frank. Reminiscences of the Old Fire Laddies . . . of New York and Brooklyn, 1885.
- King, William T. History of the American Steam Fire Engine, 1896.
- McCosker, M.J. The Historical Collection of the Insurance Company of North America, 1945.
- Manual of the Fire Department of the City of New Bedford, Mass., 1897. 3 copies.
- Masters, Robert V. Going to Blazes, 1950.
- National Board of Fire Underwriters. Fire Safety on the Farm, ca. 1950.
- The National Fire Fan, March 1952-Winter 1953-54. 13 items.
- The National Fireman, September 1916.
- New Bedford Fire Department . . . . Signal Boxes, 1908-1923. 5 items.
- New Bedford Firemen's Mutual Aid Society. History of Liberty Hall, ca. 1900.
- New Bedford Municipal Register, 1892.
- New Bedford Protecting Society. "Instructions," 1908. 2 copies.
- New Bedford Veteran Firemen's Association. Forms, ca. 1900-1926. 3 items.
- Newburyport Firemen's Sick Benefit Association. Second Annual Souvenir Program Book,1946.
- O'Higgins, Harvey J. The Smoke Eaters,1905.
- Old Farmer's Almanac, 1866, 1894, 1901, 1902, 1909, 1913.
- Otis, James.An Amateur Fireman, 1898.
- Pictures of the Worst Fire in Fall River's History, 1928.
- Rules and Regulations of the New Bedford Fire Department,1875.
- Rules and Regulations of the New Bedford Protecting Society, 1948.
- San Francisco and Vicinity Before and After the Big Fire, 1906.
- Story of the American Fireman, ca. 1890.
- "Testimonial to the Fire Chief Lawrence F. Lynch," 1947.
- United States Office of Price Administration. "Emergency Plan for Gasoline Rationing," 1942.
- Views of Salem After the Great Fire of June 25, 1914.
- Walter Kidder and Company. How to Teach Fire Fighting, 1943.
- Webster, Frank W. The Young Firemen of Lakeville, 1909.
Removed to Objects Collection
- Tickets to Veteran Firemen's balls and functions, 1891-1927. 39 items.
- Dance cards and programs for Veteran Firemen's concerts and balls, 1878-1909. 12 items.
- Advertising cards, ca. 1900. 2 items.
- Dedication program, 1909.
- Copy of painting "Fire" by R. Veenfliet, 1911.
- Christmas card, ca. 1940.
- Election advertisement, ca. 1950.
Removed to Broadside Collection
Lines, ca. 1880.
- List of members of the Baltimore Veteran Volunteer Firemen's Association, ca. 1886.
- First Annual Ladies' Day Excursion of the Fall River Veteran Firemen, 1892
- Fire Alarm Signal Boxes, ca. 1895.
- A Few Minutes with the Boys at No. 1 House, 1918.
- If Air Raids Come, ca. 1942.
- 9th Annual Ball, No. Dartmouth Firemen's Assn, 1949.
- Fire Prevention Week posters, ca. 1915-1940. 3 items.
- Recital program of Studio of Dramatic Arts, ca. 1940.
Removed to Scrapbooks Collection
- Local history scrapbooks, 1875-1939. 4 volumes.
- Advertising and miscellaneous scrapbook, ca. 1896-1903.
Materials in this collection were given to the Old Dartmouth Historical Society by Edward H. Gifford in August 1958, and by the Old Colony Historic Collection and the New Bedford Volunteer Firemen's Association, 18 August 1964.
Processed by: Barbara B. Austen, ca. 1982
Encoded by: Kermit Dewey, 18 October 2011
Funds for processing this collection were provided by the National Endowment for the Humanities.
Please Consult Research Library for Detailed Description of Collection
Account books--New Bedford, Mass.--1891-1952
Acushnet Engine Company, No. 4, New Bedford, Mass.
Columbian Engine Company, No. 5, New Bedford, Mass.
Excelsior Steam Fire Engine Company, No. 3, New Bedford, Mass.
Fire fighters--Mass.--New Bedford
Fire-departments--Mass.--New Bedford--Equipment and supplies
Franklin Engine Company, No. 10, New Bedford, Mass.
Grand Army of the Republic. Department of Massachusetts. R. A. Pierce Post No. 190
Grand Army of the Republic. Department of Massachusetts. William Logan Rodman Post No. 1
Hancock Engine Company, No. 9, New Bedford, Mass.
Massachusetts State Firemen's Association
Mechanic Engine Company, No. 6, New Bedford, Mass.
New Bedford Fire Department, New Bedford, Mass.
New Bedford Firemen's Mutual Aid Society, New Bedford, Mass.
New Bedford Protecting Society, New Bedford, Mass.
New Bedford, Mass.--Civil defense
New Bedford, Mass.--Clubs
New Bedford, Mass.--Societies
Ohio Engine Company, No. 3, New Bedford, Mass.
Onward Steam Fire Engine Company, No. 1, New Bedford, Mass.
Oregon Engine Company, No. 11, New Bedford, Mass.
Philadelphia Engine Company, No. 7, New Bedford, Mass.
Progress Steam Fire Engine Company, No. 2, New Bedford, Mass.
Young America Engine Company, No. 8, New Bedford, Mass.
Zachariah Hillman Engine Company, No. 5, New Bedford, Mass.
- Sailors’ Series Lectures
- Lecture Series: Famine, Friends & Fenians
- February Vacation Week
- Lecture: Curators discuss Artist Albert Pinkham Ryder
- New Bedford Lyceum: Bob Woodward
- Second Half Lectures: Influential Women
- 2017 Members’ Trip
- Annual Family Activities
- Community Programs
- Annual Events
- Past Programs
- Exhibit Enhancements
- Discovery Center
- Herman Melville
- Captain Paul Cuffe