Our Firemen, The History of the NY Fire Departments

Chapter 54, Part VI

By Holice and Debbie

When in April, 1865, the affairs of the Committee on Paid Fire Department were settled it was found that they had spent $21,836.50, more than half of the assessment on the companies, and an additional assessment of one-tenth of one per cent was ordered. Appropriate action was taken in regard to the victories which marked the close of the war and the death of President Lincoln. On the 17th of April, 1865, the members of the Board met at the Insurance rooms, No. 156 Broadway, and Messrs. Edward A. Stansbury, Robert O. Glover, and James M. McLean, and passed resolutions regarding the assassination of President Lincoln. One of the resolutions read:

Resolved, That the members of this Board join with the nation and the whole civilized world in execution of the spirit which has prompted this deed, and in profound and personal sorrow for the bereavement which he has afflicted on us.

On January 30th, 1866, a special committee reported a proposed act for the incorporation of the Board. The draft of the bill was not presented until march 5th, 1867, and the Act of Incorporation was passed May 9th, 1867. The fist meeting of the new Board was on the 15th of May, when measures were taken to dissolve the association and transfer its property. May 20th, Mr. McLean and Mr. Henshaw were re-elected. Shortly after the alarming frequency of fire and the unusual losses therefrom caused an inquiry \by the Assembly Committee on Insurance Companies, who met a Committee of the Board. Afterward the Board's Committee made suggestions before a joint meeting of the Senate and Assembly committees on Insurance. Out of the conference came a bill which created another Fire Commissioner, an act regulating the Storage of combustible materials, an act to create a Superintendent of Buildings, and an act to create a Fire Marshal. In November incendiarism of buildings had become so common that the Board appropriated $50,000 to be offered in rewards for convictions, not exceeding $5,000 in any one case. The act creating a Fire Marshal was not passed until the spring of 1868, and Captain Charles N. Brackett was appointed.

A leap from 1868 to 1886 is necessitated by want of space to chronicle the minor events of this period against the important events of the last-named year, one of the most important in the annals of underwriting. The only digression permissible is to refer to the important discussions and action of various committees in the Dry Goods District in 1882 and 1883. The district was understood to be that bounded by Chambers, Elm, Crossly, and Spring Streets, South Fifth Avenue and West Broadway, and the value of the stocks held is estimated at $200,000.00. Among those who actively participated in the inquiry were James Harrison, Superintendent of Rates and Survey, an office created in 1872, and Messrs. Washburn, Adee, Hollinshead, Hope, Jeremiah, Kennedy, Beddall, Kahl, Bacon, Douglass, and the following merchants:

Charles S. Smith of George C. Richardson and Co
William E. Tefft of Tefft, Weller & Co.
J. H. Dunham,  of Dunham, Buckley & Co.
John R. Waters of Megroz, Portier, Grose & Co.
C. N. Bliss,  of Bliss, Fabyan & Co.
J. H. Reed of Bates, Reed & Cooley
John Claflin of H. B. Claflin & Co.
Jacob Wendell of Wendell Fay & Co.
William Strong of William L. Strong & Co.
John Gibb of Mills & Gibb
Elkan Naumburg of Naumburg, Kraus, Lauer & Co
Charles Sternbach of H. Herrmann Sternbach & Co.
James O. Carpenter of William H. Lyon & Co.
E. F. Browning of William C. Brown & Co.
Charles T. Smith of William H. Smith & Co.

The main work of 1886 was the adoption of the standard Fire Insurance Policy of the State of New York, which went into effect on the 20th of October, 1886, under Chapter 488, of the Laws.

There was also established the Metropolitan Association of Fire Underwriters under section 19 of the by-laws, who adopted a schedule of minimum rates which with the rates of the New York Tariff association constituted the rates in the Metropolitan District of the 7th of October, 1886. This was under a compact reported by the following committee:

Edw. A. Walton T. F. Jeremiah P. B. Armstrong
Rud. Garrigue George M. Coit E. F. Beddall
N. W. Meserole W. E. Horwill J. E. Leffingwell
Thomas Gaines A. Reeves M. A. Stone
J. Q. Underhill J. A. Silvey Henry H. Hall(ex-officio)
W. B. Ogden - -

The preamble to the compact was as follows:

  1. That all risks of every description in the Metropolitan District be equally rated.
  2. That no commissions be paid in excess of 10 per centum of the premium..
  3. That no rebate to the assured be made by the companies from established rates, and that rules be prepared under which the rebating of commissions by brokers shall be effectually prevented.
  4. That penalties be fixed for the infraction of any of the rates and rules that maybe adopted by the Association.

The officers first elected for the Association were:

E. A. Walton, President of the Citizens', President
Edward Gaines, Secretary of the Eagle, Vice-President
David L. Kirby, of Mills, Ford & Co., Secretary, and
W. M. St. John, President of the Standard, Treasurer

The New York board of fire underwriters of to-day, whose offices at the Boreel Building, No. 115 roadway, were first occupied in 1878, is a great institution. The companies having in various ways representation in it have $185,415.00 of assets against $10,586,175,402.00 of risks. Its officers and committees are:


Henry H. Hall, manager of the Northern, of London.


George M. Coit, Agent of Hartford companies.


William W. Henshaw, Assistant Manager of the Royal, of London.

Assistant Secretary

David L. Kirby, of Mills & Ford, Agents.


William A. Anderson, President of the Mercantile.

Executive Committee

William M. ST. John, Chairman; Samuel P. Blagden, Vice-chairman; J. F. Halstead, Stephen Crowell, Edmund Driggs, D. Underhill, J. E. Pulsford, S. E. Belcher, J. S. Hollinshead, James A. Silvey, Henry E. Bowers, A, M, Kirby, Chas. M. Peck, Samuel Townsend, George T. Patterson, Jr., Charles Sewall, E. R. Kennedy, James A. Alexander, Peter Notman, J. M. Hare, C. A. Hull, T. Y. Brown, F. O. Affeld, James Yereance, J. Jay Nestell, William B. Ogden, T. F., Jeremiah, David Adee, Charles L. Gunn, D. F. Fernald, E. Litchfield, Thomas Clark, Jr., T. B. Jones, E. Dwight, Jr., William DeL. Boughton, Walter K. Paye, D. A. Heald, Henry A. Oakley, E. A. Walton, N. C. Miller.

Ex-officio Members

Henry H. Hall, George M. Coit, William H. Henshaw, David L. Kirby, William A. Anderson



J. F. Halstead, Chairman; Stephen Crowell, Vice-Chairman; Edmund Driggs, Daniel Underhill, S. E. Belcher, J. E. Pulsford, J. S. Hollinshead.

Fire Patrol

George T. Patterson Jr., Chairman; A. M. Kirby, Vice-Chairman; James A. Silvey, Charles M. Peck, Samuel Townsend, Henry E, Bowers, Samuel P. Blagden.

Laws and Legislation

E. R. Kennedy, Chairman, Chairman; C. A. Hull, Vice-Chairman; Charles Sewall, William M. St. John, Peter Notman, James A. Alexander, J. M. Hare.


James Yereance, Chairman; Charles L. Gunn, Vice-Chairman; T. Y. Brown, J. Jay Nestell, William B. Ogden, F. O. Affeld, David Adee.

Police and Origin of Fires

William DeL. Boughton, Chairman; Walter K. Paye, Vice-chairman; D. F. Fernald, Thomas Clark, Jr., T. B. Jones, E. Litchfield, E. Dwight, Jr.


Peter Notman, Chairman; Henry A. Oakley, Vice-Chairman; E. A. Walton, T. F. Jeremiah, D. A. Heald, N. C. Miller.


S. E. Belcher, Chairman; James A. Alexander, vice-Chairman; Samuel Townsend, T. B. Jones, F. O. Affeld.


James Yereance, Chairman; J. F. Halstead, E. R. Kennedy, George T. Patterson, Jr., William Del. Boughton.

Water Supply

J. H. Washburn, Chairman; J. Jay Nestell, A. M. Kirby, Chas. Sewall, Chas. L. Gunn.

Adjustment of Losses

Wm. M. St. John, Chairman; Peter Notman, Edmund Driggs, Chas. H. Ford, J. F. Halstead, Chas. M. Peck, J. M. Hare, E. F. Beddall.

Delegate to Board of Examiners of Building Department

Wm. M. St. John.

Transcribed by Holice B. Young

HTML by Debbie

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