The Badges of the West Haven Fire Department ~ The Fire Police

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
                                        James Kelley
                                        George Bescher
                                        Lewis Warner
                                       James Fenwick
                                       William Wilson

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.

 

 

The Badges of the West Haven Fire Department ~ Our First Badge

From our department’s inception in 1888, on through to the present day, our members have worn a variety of different badges.  The department’s Historical Library staff has been busy researching and documenting the evolution of the department badge.  We have scoured our archives, reached out to our members both past and present, and have studied several private collections.  We invite you to join us on our journey through the years.  This is a work in progress and will continue to be updated as we gather more information along the way.

Now, let’s start at the beginning, shall we?

The First Badge

The earliest evidence we could find in regard to our badges was the badge in the portrait of our first Chief, William V. Wilson.  Although, as of this writing, we can find no written documentation of when or where this badge originated, we do have several examples of this style.

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Above is the badge in Chief Wilson’s portrait. Below is the badge from Chief Thompson’s photo.  He became Chief in 1893.

 

Adolphus Jonah ThompsonAdolphus Jonah Thompson 2

These are the earliest examples of our department’s badges on record.  The New Haven Fire Department had a very similar style badge featured below.

 

New Haven VolunteerNew Haven VFA (2)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

You will notice that the initials “VFA” are included on the lower portion of these badges.  In 1862, the thirteen volunteer companies that made up the New Haven Fire Department were disbanded to make way for the paid department. In 1879, the former members of these volunteer companies formed the Veteran Volunteer Firemen’s Association. Being that the West Haven Fire Department was formed just nine years later, we can assume that our first badges (featured below) were either patterned after the New Haven badges or that this style was just what was available and popular at that time.

First Design - #4

First Design - unnumbered

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Although it is difficult to see clearly, the above righthand badge seems to match the badge in the photograph of Chief Thompson.  The angle of the trumpet in the center scramble appears to be the same.  The portrait of Chief Wilson is less clear and, being a portrait as opposed to a photograph, we can only assume that the artist took no liberties with their representation of his badge.

So there you have it, our first badge.    This article is the first of a series showcasing our department’s badges throughout our history.  Look for our next installment.

~Photos Courtesy of the WHFD Historical Library.
~Badges Courtesy of the Charles E. Raubeson Collection.