Patrolling the Delaware: Philadelphia’s Fireboats

Fireman’s Hall Museum is currently revamping our fireboat exhibit and in doing our research, we realized many people don’t know much about fireboats but they’re some of the most unique and interesting fire apparatus that a city can have!

The current front of the museum's fireboat exhibit. The city skyline backdrop was updated in 2014.

The current front of the museum’s fireboat exhibit. The city skyline backdrop was updated in 2014.

The Independence is the PFD’s newest fireboat and was put into service in 2007 but this new boat’s design does not waver much from the original fireboat, the Edwin S. Stuart, which was put into service in 1893. The boats were originally named after mayors, J. Hampton Moore, Bernard Samuels and Stuart were all Philadelphia mayors. Today, there are 3 Marine Fire Fighting Units in service, the Delaware, Independence and Benjamin Franklin. The boats pump 6,000 gallons of water per minute, which would fill an Olympic swimming pool in over an hour. They weigh around 88 tons – or the equivalent of 11.3 African elephant!

The Fireboat Independence putting on a water display at the Fireman's Hall Muster in October 2014

The Independence (Fireboat 1) putting on a water display at the Fireman’s Hall Muster in October 2014.

Come by the museum to find out more about fireboats and stay tuned for updates on our progress!


“The Bible” of the Philly Fire Department

Fireman’s Hall Museum houses one of the most precious artifacts of the Philadelphia Fire Department. The PFD “Bible” records the careers of every single person employed by the department from 1871 to 1955. The book itself measures 23 inches wide by 18 inches tall and about 2 inches thick.

The Philadelphia Fire Department 'Bible'

The Philadelphia Fire Department ‘Bible’

‘The Bible” of the PFD is the original personnel journal from the very first day of the paid fire department in Philly, March 15, 1871, up until 1955. The book is organized alphabetically so the two highlighted names in the photo below are among the first to be registered as part of the paid PFD (click the photo for a better look!)

First two men in the paid PFD

Page 1 of the ‘Bible’ with 2 of the first members of the paid department. These 2 men joined on March 15, 1871.

In 1955, the recording system changed to index cards and today there is a digital system used to record the careers of every person ever hired by the paid PFD.

A sample [page of the PFD 'Bible'

A sample page of the bible showing name, age, residence, occupation, position, station, date appointed and any notes about the person’s career.

The “Bible” records include everyone from  mechanics to matrons to secretaries. The records indicate every company served by any paid employee including dates of transfers, promotions and retirement.

It is an invaluable research tool for our genealogical research branch. If you are interested in tracing anyone who worked for or served the paid Philadelphia Fire Department visit our store site to place a research request!