Fighting a Fire

William P. Chappel American

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Between 1800 and 1810, the number of firefighters across the city expanded from 600 to 1,005—a response to the dramatic growth in population and rapid urban development. Most homes and businesses were still made of wood; the bulky manual pump engines had to be dragged to fires by hand; and local water supplies were consistently insufficient. At times the only option left to firefighters and neighbors was to help remove the homeowner’s property, and prevent thieves from stealing it. Before more advanced firefighting technologies emerged in the 1820s, all residents were required by law to own a leather fire bucket for use in water lines, as depicted here.

Fighting a Fire, William P. Chappel (American, 1801–1878), Oil on slate paper, American

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