Special Collections Department
Friendship Fire Company,
1784 - 1828
Manuscript Collection Number: 463
Accessioned: Purchase, 1956
Extent: . 1 linear ft. (3 items in 1" box)
Content: Organizational records
Access: The collection is open for research.
Processed: May 2003 by Carrie L. Foley
Special Collections, University of Delaware Library
Newark, Delaware 19717-5267
Table of Contents
The Friendship Fire Company of Wilmington, Delaware, the first volunteer fire department in the city’s history, was founded in December of 1775 by a group of prominent citizens who were frustrated with the lack of fire protection in their region. The sixty-three original members agreed to respond to local conflagrations, bringing with them two leather pails for the bucket brigade. The Revolutionary War quickly disrupted the early organizational efforts of the Company, but after the War’s end the members were determined to strengthen their “languid state” (Minutes, 23 Sep 1784). In September of 1784, the organization resolved to recruit more members, and the following month the Company began holding public meetings at the Town Hall building. The Friendship Fire Company remained the only fire company in Wilmington until 1796, when the Reliance Fire Company was organized.
During the late-eighteenth and early-nineteenth centuries, the Friendship Fire Company continued to grow. It acquired more sophisticated equipment, including a small hand engine in 1790 to supplement the two supplied by the Borough of Wilmington. The organization was headquartered at several different engine houses during its early years, the first one located on Fifth Street, between Shipley and Orange Streets. The Friendship Fire Company was incorporated in 1805, and continued to serve the community, along with a number of other volunteer fire companies, until the founding of the professional Wilmington Fire Department in 1921.
Conrad, Henry C. History of the State of Delaware. Wilmington, Del.: Published by the author, 1908. Volume 1, pp. 328-329.
Lukaszewski, Chester P. The Wilmington Volunteer Fire Department, 1775-1921. Master’s Thesis, University of Delaware, 1965.
Scharf, J. Thomas. History of Delaware, 1609-1888. Philadelphia: L. J. Richards & Co., 1888. Volume 2, pp. 674-675.
Snellenburg, David. “Volunteer fire companies of old Wilmington.” Unpublished paper, . Located in Special Collections, University of Delaware Library.
Welde, Charles. History of the Wilmington Fire Department. Wilmington, Del.: Press of Homer Barry, 1897.
Historical information was gleaned from the collection.
The Records of the Friendship Fire Company consist of one volume and two loose documents. The documents include the Constitution of the Friendship Fire Company with its Act of Incorporation, dated 15 January 1805, and an undated list of the Company’s rules and regulations, which seems to have been written at the time of the incorporation. The volume contains the Friendship Fire Company’s official minutes from 1784 to 1828 and several other records.
The minutes of the semi-monthly meetings of the Company, which make up most of the volume, contain details on the routine operations of the organization. Topics include the Company’s membership and attendance; dues and fines owed by members; the acquisition of firefighting equipment; the elections of officers; and the administration of the Company, including issues relating to incorporation, the bylaws, and the Constitution. Other fire prevention concerns, such as cooperation with other fire companies and local ordinances on chimney maintenance (passed in 1793 and 1803), are also addressed in the minutes. At the back of the volume there is an assortment of other records, including Company accounts dated 1784-1806; attendance records for 1789-1802 and 1805; and a separate, undated list of members noting their attendance records and the fines they paid. The final pages of the volume contain a brief note on three fires that occurred in the area in 1824-1825. In general, however, there is little information in this collection concerning fires that took place in Wilmington. Rather, this collection provides researchers with a thorough picture of the structure, membership, and management of a volunteer fire company in the early years of the United States.
Box -- Folder -- Contents
F1 Constitution of the Friendship Fire Company and its Act of Incorporation, dated 15 January 1805. F2 Undated list of the Company’s rules and regulations, probably written in 1805 at the time of incorporation. F3 Volume containing minutes, attendance records, and accounts, 1784 – 1828.
Last modified: 01/19/11