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Exhibition Join In: Voluntary Assocations in America

Benjamin Franklin (1706–1790). “On Protection of Towns from Fire,” Pennsylvania Gazette, February 4, 1735. Serial and Government Publications Division, Library of Congress (013.00.00)
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Benjamin Franklin (1706–1790). “On Protection of Towns from Fire,” Pennsylvania Gazette, February 4, 1735. Serial and Government Publications Division, Library of Congress (013.00.00)
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Massachusetts Charitable Fire Society. Sir. A Society Has Lately Been Instituted in This Town, the First Object of which is to Afford Relief to Those Who Suffer by Fire. . . . Boston, May 15, 1794. Rare Book and Special Collections Division, Library of Congress (014.00.00)
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Currier & Ives. This Certifies that . . . Is a Member of . . . Company; No. . . . Fire Department. New York: Published by Currier & Ives, ca. 1877. Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress (016.00.00)
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Volunteer Firefighters

Soon after firefighting equipment was introduced in the British colonies in 1731, men such as Benjamin Franklin—here writing in the Pennsylvania Gazette—sought to organize fire companies. Equipment at the time consisted of hand pumps, each filled and operated by companies of thirty to fifty young men. By the mid-nineteenth century, as equipment improved, businesses wanted standardized protection and so urban firefighters became paid professionals. The introduction of mechanized equipment permitted suburban and rural areas to develop volunteer fire companies, and even today seventy-five percent of firefighters are volunteers.