The Rise and Fall of the Urban Volunteer Fire Company: Why Nineteenth-Century Citizens Chose to Pay for an Urban Service They Had Previously Received for Free

Lecture Description

Prior to the 1850s, there was no such thing as a paid fire department in the United States. Plenty of men were willing to fight fires for free in the flammable cities of America, and these volunteer firemen did so, to great popular acclaim.

So why, over a very short period of time, did municipal governments unanimously decide that it was worth paying men to fight fires, and why did urban property owners agree to pay taxes for a service they had previously received for free? This talk will explore the rise and fall of the urban volunteer department in nineteenth-century America, and will suggest what was lost in rejection of volunteerism.


1800-1865 Social and Cultural

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