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Outgrowing Our Citizens : The Demise of Philadelphia’s Volunteer Firefighting System

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Title: Outgrowing Our Citizens : The Demise of Philadelphia’s Volunteer Firefighting System
Author: Mirra, Nicholas
Advisor: Saler, Bethel; McWilliams, Susan
Department: Haverford College. Dept. of History
Type: Thesis (B.A.)
Running Time: 208148 bytes145145 bytes
Issue Date: 2006
Abstract: Philadelphia’s volunteer firefighting system emerged as a civic institution after the first hose companies were created in 1803. Men volunteered to serve their city, and the public paid them in company funding and adoration. As time went on, however, firemen culture came to emphasize company honor and autonomy as much as strength, civic duty, and innovation. Company rivalries became violent in the 1830s, and public opinion soured on their once-heroes. After a decade of terrible urban violence, city reformers at mid-century sought ways to restore order. The rowdy firemen were prime targets for reform. The 1850s also saw a confluence of economic and social pressures which placed additional pressure on the firemen. Fire insurance undermined their monopoly on urban fire protection, while the steam fire engine reduced the number of men required to protect the city. The firemen resisted a forced change to a paid department, but in doing so conceded to or adopted many of their critics’ arguments for professionalization. Philadelphia was one of the last major American cities to create a paid fire department, which it did in 1871.
Subject: Volunteer fire fighters -- Pennsylvania -- Philadelphia -- History
Subject: Volunteer fire departments -- Pennsylvania -- Philadelphia -- History
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Mirra, Nicholas. "Outgrowing Our Citizens : The Demise of Philadelphia’s Volunteer Firefighting System". 2006. Available electronically from

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