Our Firemen, The History of the NY Fire Departments

Chapter 49, Part IV

By Holice and Debbie

On the twenty-second of October the sign "Firemen's Hall" was taken down at the Mercer Street headquarters, and one beating "Headquarters Metropolitan Fire Department" put up. November 12, Mr. James M. McLean was appointed to succeed Mr. Abbe.

An order of December 26, 1868, defined the boundaries of the engine districts, organized the battalions and brigades, military fashion, assigned commanding officers and established the following ranking grades:


Title of Position

Assimilated Rank

Chief engineer


Assistant Engineer

Lieut. Colonel

District Engineer




Assistant Foreman


Engineer of Steamers




Hoseman and Laddermen


In January, 1869, the committees of the Board were reorganized as follows:

Appointments--all the commissioners.

Supplies--Galway and Wilson.
Finance--Myers and McLean.
Buildings--Galway and Myers.
Telegraph--McLean and Wilson.
Apparatus--Wilson and Galway.
Combustibles--Wilson and McLean

In March the various companies were organized for patrol beats in three brigades, and eight battalions, and strict rules were made in regard to patrol service and the keeping of the journals of companies.

Chief Kingsland, a democrat, was not chary of criticism, and some remarks of his in regard to an order of the commissioners which related to the school of instruction, having been reported ordered, which, in the end, brought about his retirement form the service. The investigation was begun in April. Shortly after, steps were taken to revolutionize he telegraph system.. May 12, 1869, Mr. James M. McLean was appointed commissioner, to succeed himself, by his colleagues. In that month fire extinguishers were introduced. May 31 the force was notified of the promotion of C. O. Shay and Christopher H. Reynolds to the rank of district engineers. Preparations to have a well equipped telegraph system went on, and in June, the treasurer was directed to include in his estimates for 1870 "a sum not exceeding four hundred thousand dollars" for a complete fire alarm telegraph, and on the eleventh of August, C. T. & J. N. Chester's proposal for its construction was accepted.

Captain EYRE M. SHAW. Chief Officer of the Metropolitan Fire Brigade of London, England, visited the United States in July, 1870, and when he was about to start on a tour through the principal cities, he penned a letter to General Alexander Shaler, in which he said:

"Before taking my tour through the United States I must trouble you with this short letter, offering my most sincere and heartfelt thanks for all the kindness and attention which I have received from you and your colleagues,. And the department generally over which you so ably preside."

This was sixteen years ago, and London is, to-day, almost as antiquated in its methods of fire extinguishing as was new York in 1865, in comparison with the system of 1869.

Captain Eyre Massey Shaw, C. B., is the head of the London Fire Brigade. He was born in Monkstown, County Cork, Ireland, in 1830, being the third son of B. R. Shaw, Esq., of Monkstown and Belvelly, and a cousin of Sir Robert Shaw, Bart., of Bushey Park. He was educated at Dr. Coghlan's well-known academy, Queenstown, and afterwards went to Trinity college, Dublin, where he greatly distinguished himself, taking his B. A. and M. A. degrees, He went to sea for two years, and was a member subsequently of the North Cork Rifles, and for two years was on the staff. After retiring from the army in1860 he became superintendent of the Borough forces in Belfast, including Police and Fire Brigade, and on the death of Mr. Braidwood, at the great fire in Tooley Street, in 1861 (which burned for a fortnight), was appointed to this present post. He is a deputy-lieutenant in Middlesex, and now a Companion of the Bath. In 1875 he drilled a force in Egypt for the Khedive.

Captain Shaw has been wounded twice very severely in the performance of his duty, and several times less so. In 1865 he visited American for the purpose of inspecting the principal Fire Departments in the country. Originally the London Fire Brigade was appointed by the fire insurance companies, but about twelve years ago the Metropolitan Board of Works took it in hand, and placed Captain Shaw at its head. There are, in the four districts into which he has divided London, fifty fire engine stations, one hundred and nine fire escape stations, four floating stations, fifty-six telegraph lines, one hundred and four miles of telegraph lines, three floating steam fire engines, one iron barge to carry a land steam fire engine, three large land steam fire engines, twenty-six small steam fire engines, twelve-six small land steam fire engines, twelve seven-inch manual fire engines, sixty six-inch manual fire engines, thirty-six under six-inch manual fire engines, seventeen hose carts, one hundred and twenty-five fire-escapes and long scaling ladders, and four hundred and twenty firemen, including the chief officer, the four superintendents, and all ranks.

The Avondale mine disaster, in the autumn of 1869, resulted in a an appeal for aid for the families of the sufferers to the member of the department, and Mr. C. E. Gildersleeve, as treasurer of the fund, sent one thousand twenty-two dollars and twenty-five cents to H. Gaylord, of Plymouth, Pa.

On the twenty-fifth of October, 1869, the large death rate having increased the burdens of the Mutual Aid Society, the treasurer was authorize to donate two thousand dollars to it. November 1 a Bureau of Statistics was created, and a few days later, a complete Manual of instruction for Commanding Officers of Engine and Hook and Ladder companies in the care and use of their apparatus was issued. November 11 classes of instruction were formed for the instruction of officers of the department in their duties under the direction of the president. There were three classes--the First, of the engineer officers; the Second, of the company commanders; and the Third, of company officers not in command. The chief engineer, when able, was required to attend the meetings of each class. Chief Kingsland's resignation was accepted , and Perley was made his successor. His salary was four thousand five hundred dollars per annum, and that of the "Chiefs of Brigade," two thousand four hundred dollars per annum. The title of chief engineer was changed to "Chief if the Department," and the assistant engineers were made "Chiefs of Battalion," except R. V. Mackey, "Department Inspector," and William Brandon, Eli Bates, and W. W. Rhodes, designated respectively as Chiefs of the First, Second, and Third Brigades.

The year 1870 found the Legislature at Albany prepared and able to do the bidding of the ring, and it was evident the Fire Department would not be neglected. The commissioners, however, ignored the inevitable and continued to perfect the system. January 13 an Examining Board was substituted for the Boards of Officers. It was composed of the Chief of the Department, the Chiefs of Brigade, the Department Inspector, and the Medical Officer, who were to pass on the conduct and qualification of the officers of the department. Chief Orr and Lieutenant Eyner, of Engine Company No. 34, were designated as Examiners of Engineers. February 14 two hundred thousand dollars was paid on account of the new telegraph to Chester and Co. In March the ringing of second and third alarms on the tower bells was discontinued and only three rounds of first alarms was struck on them. March 16 the new telegraph system, with signal boxes, as at present , was completed below Fourteenth Street, for signal 2 to 346, and on the thirty-first of March arrangements were made to connect Blackwell's, Ward's, and Randall's Islands with the city by submarine telegraph. The tower bells were then at the post-office, Spring Street, Marion Street, Essex Market , Union Market, Jefferson Market, Twenty-firth Street, Thirty-third Street, Fifty-first Street, Yorkville and Mount Morris.

Transcribed by Holice B. Young

HTML by Debbie

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