Welcome to our second installment in our Department Badge series. This installment deals with the West Haven Fire Police. Organized in 1899, the Fire Police would play a large role in our department for several years before disbanding in 1913 to make way for the organization of the Borough’s police force.
Above is a photograph of our Fire Police. The first mention of the “Fire Police” appears in the revised 1898 Rules and Regulations of the West Haven Fire Department.
“#10. The Board of Warden and Burgesses shall annually appoint a corps of Fire Police, as to them may seem fit, such Fire Police to be members of the Fire Department under the jurisdiction of the Fire Commissioners. They shall report at all fires and alarms of fire for the purpose of preserving order and safeguarding property: shall act under the direction of the Chief and shall wear a special badge provided by the Fire Commissioners under such regulations as may from time to time be made by them.”
We find it very significant that this is the first time any specific department badge is mentioned in an official capacity. As we progress further with our Badge series you will see how important our department badges become, even being included in the oaths used in the swearing-in of our members.
Here is an example of of a Fire Police Badge. There is no numeric designation on this badge. It is also interesting that the abbreviation “DEP’T” includes an apostrophe. This is common on badges of this era. As time goes on, the abbreviation “DEPT.” would be more commonplace.
The first Fire Police were appointed on March 7, 1899. Below is an excerpt from the minutes of the Borough’s March meeting:
“Voted that six Fire Police be appointed and that the Fire Commissioners be instructed to furnish same with badges.”
Fire Police Appointed: Lawrence Moore
Once again, the badges are mentioned specifically. No where in the minutes does it mention any other equipment or uniforms. In the above photo you can see the men all have white gloves and are holding “Billy Clubs”. We can assume that these details were discussed at some point but only the badges were deemed important enough to be included in the official Borough minutes.
Here are two more examples of badges worn by the Fire Police. These both have numeric designations and, if you look at the badge on the right, the abbreviation “DEPT.” has no apostrophe. This could indicate that this style was adopted later than the style on the left. By clicking on the photo of the Fire Police you can view an enlarged version (most photos included in our articles have this feature). Although the photo is not clear enough to see all the details of the badges worn by these men, you can make out the outlines. It would appear that the style on the left was worn by five of the members. If you notice the man third from the left, he appears to be wearing the badge that has no numeric designation.
We suspect that this member is the “Captain” of the Fire Police Corps. Although we have no way to confirm this as of this writing, his blouse has two rows of buttons which indicates an officer. Also, officers usually were issued a different style of badge with no numeric designation. Again, this is speculation on our part but these traditions continue in our department to this very day.
Because of the short time that the Fire Police were in existence, coupled with the fact that there were very few members, the Fire Police badge is one of the rarest examples of our departments badges.
Look for the next installment of our Department Badge series. We also plan a more in depth article on the history of the West Haven Fire Police in the near future.
~Photographs courtesy of the WHFD Historical Library.
~Badges (non-numeric) courtesy of the Charles E. Raubeson Collection.
~Badges (numeric) courtesy of the Greg Giaquinto Collection.