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Long Beach Fireman's Historical Museum Photographs Collection
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Collection Details
Table of contents What's This?
  • Access
  • Publication Rights
  • Preferred Citation
  • Acquisition Information
  • Processing Information
  • History of the Long Beach Fire Department
  • Scope and Content
  • Arrangement
  • Related Materials
  • Secondary Sources

  • Contributing Institution: California State University Dominguez Hills, Gerth Archives and Special Collections
    Title: Long Beach Fireman's Historical Museum Photographs Collection
    Creator: Long Beach Fireman's Historical Museum
    Identifier/Call Number: SPC.2009.005
    Physical Description: 35 boxes
    Physical Description: 20.295 Linear Feet
    Date (inclusive): 1840-1971
    Date (bulk): 1906-1971
    Abstract: Negatives and photographic prints documenting the history of the Long Beach Fire Department. Included are images of the department from its earliest days in the early 20th century through to 1971. Images focus upon department personnel, apparatus, fires, and fire prevention. Also includes photographic prints and negatives which document the history of the city of Long Beach, including documentation of the March 10, 1933 earthquake and documentation of early drilling activities including major fires in the Long Beach area. Material from the collection is available online by visiting the Long Beach Fireman's Historical Museum Photographs Digital Collection .
    Language of Material: English .


    There are no access restrictions on this collection.

    Publication Rights

    All requests for permission to publish or quote from manuscripts must be submitted in writing to the Director of Archives and Special Collections. Permission for publication is given on behalf of Special Collections as the owner of the physical materials and not intended to include or imply permission of the copyright holder, which must also be obtained.

    Preferred Citation

    For information about citing archival material, see the Citations for Archival Material  guide, or consult the appropriate style manual.

    Acquisition Information

    Donated by the Long Beach Fireman's Historical Museum in 2009.

    Processing Information

    Collection processed by Veronica D'Aquino and Erin Kurinsky, 2010.

    History of the Long Beach Fire Department

    The city of Long Beach was incorporated in 1897, and shortly thereafter, a group of citizens formed the first Volunteer Fire Department and elected Brewster C. Kenyon as Captain. After a 1905 fire destroyed the Long Beach Pavilion, a $30,000 bond was issued by popular vote to build a central fire station as well as provide equipment, including fire alarm boxes, a steam fire engine, a hose wagon, and a hook and ladder truck, as well as a team of horses to pull the newly purchased trucks.
    In 1906, the first official fire station (Station No. 1) was built at 210 West Third Street. The department was headed by Chief Joseph E. Shrewsbury and Assistant Chief George Craw, with a few men hired to be trained as firemen. The regular firemen were assisted by "Call Firemen," who would be paid per fire fought. In 1907, the department purchased its first motorized fire trucks. In 1908, Station No. 2 and Station No. 3 were opened, and Station No. 4 was opened in 1910. In 1916, Chief Shrewsbury was killed in an automobile accident while responding to a fire call (which ultimately turned out to be a false alarm), and George Craw replaced him as the city's second Fire Chief.
    In 1917, in response to the city's growing population and the increase in the number of fires, the Fire Prevention Bureau was established. In 1920, the department hired additional full-time personnel and ground was broken on two additional fire stations, Station No. 5 and Station No. 6. Between 1924 and 1929, and additional six stations were built throughout the city.
    Oil was discovered in the Signal Hill area of Long Beach in 1921, and the oil industry swiftly descended on the city to begin drilling operations. The early oil fields were extremely dangerous places. Due to a general disregard for safety, and the fact that oil derricks were built using wood, the oil fields were particularly susceptible to fires. The first major oil fire occurred at the Fisher refinery in 1924, which was followed by the Alamitos fire in 1927.
    On March 10, 1933, a 6.3 earthquake occurred, within an epicenter located a few miles off shore from Newport Beach. This devastated Long Beach and many surrounding cities. Several fire stations (Stations No. 1, 5, 7, and 9), along with many other buildings including Polytechnic High School, were destroyed in the quake, and a few firemen died as a result of injuries sustained. Another major oil fire, the Richfield Oil Refinery fire, occurred in June of that year, and was most likely caused by residual damage from the March earthquake.
    Following the earthquake, the city went to work building new stations to replace those destroyed, as well as adding additional fire stations and increasing the number of personnel employed by the department. In 1938, the department moved to install "Talk Alarm" receivers in various stations, which greatly increased the effectiveness of the department by allowing identical information to be received in all stations, thus reducing errors in responding to the wrong address on alarms. In 1942, the city acquired its first fire boat, the "Charles S. Windham." The decision to invest in fire boats proved a good one in December 1945, when a large fire took place on Pier 1 at Berths 51, 52, 53, and 54. The fire, which was the most disastrous in the city's history, burned for several days, though fortunately no casualties were recorded. In 1964, a new drill tower and Fire College opened to train the many new fire fighters needed to service the expanding city.
    The Long Beach Fireman's Historical Museum was founded in 1980 by Herb Bramley to document the history of fire fighters in Long Beach and to restore historic fire engines. The museum is currently housed in the building which originally housed Fire Station No. 10, and also contains an extensive collection of fire fighter's tools and equipment, as well as log books used by the department throughout its history.

    Scope and Content

    The Long Beach Fireman's Historical Museum Photographs Collection consists primarily of negatives documenting the Long Beach Fire Department's history and activities from 1906 to the early 1970s. The negatives are primarily 4x5" black and white film, through there are some negatives of additional size, including 5x7", 2½x2½", 3½x5½", and 35mm, mostly black and white with a few color negatives. There is also a collection of photographic prints, which document both the history of the Long Beach Fire Department, as well as some of the early history of the city of Long Beach. These photographs are of varying size, with the majority being 8x10" prints.
    The negatives are arranged numerically, and are primarily in chronological order. The negatives are all filed under serial numbers originally assigned by the Long Beach Fire Department, and those numbers have largely been retained in the collection. The serial number is followed by digits representing the number of negatives and prints which are included per set. Each group of negatives is housed within one or more acid-free envelopes, and negatives which have been digitally scanned are housed separately from those which have not been scanned. Scanned negatives are indicated by an "S" on the envelope. There is a small collection of nitrate-based negatives, which are stored separately from the general collection due to their inherent instability.
    Photographic prints have been arranged topically, and were assigned an inventory number during processing. Digitally scanned prints are housed separately from unscanned prints. Those prints that are copies of negatives in the collection are housed in two additional boxes, and their inventory numbers correspond to the serial numbers of the negatives from which they were printed.
    The Fire Museum maintains prints from the original negatives and a great deal of scrapbooks.
    The collection is separated into 15 series: Apparatus, Car Collisions & Traffic Accidents, City Departments, Drill School & Demonstrations, Fire Prevention, Fire Stations, Fires, Funerals, Ladies Auxiliary, Miscellaneous, Mutual Benefit & Union, Parades & Publicity, Personnel, Site Inspections, and Tests. The series were assigned according to the Long Beach Fire Department's subject index ledger, and negatives and prints which were not assigned a series designation in this ledger were assigned one during processing which corresponds to the Fire Department's series descriptions.
    Aside from providing insight into the history of fire fighting in Long Beach, this collection explores the evolution of life in Southern California from the early 1900s through the 1970s. In documenting the activities of the fire department, the photographs in this collection also documents the people residing in the city of Long Beach: the homes they lived in, the cars they drove, the businesses they established, and their general way of life. In addition, the collection provides pictorial evidence of the human impact on the environment in the city of Long Beach, particularly as it pertains to the oil industry, which was a major influence on the growth and development of the city. Some striking photographs of the sea of oil derricks blanketing the landscape of Long Beach can be viewed in this collection.
    Information regarding the collection has been entered into the following fields:
    ID number
    Representing the ID number assigned by the Long Beach Fire Department to negatives.
    Box Number
    Box number in which the negative or print is housed.
    A descriptive title of the image. This field also includes the names of any personnel pictured, unless the list of names is too long to fit into this field, in which case names are entered in the notes field.
    Series description assigned to the negative by the Long Beach Fire Department.
    Date the original photograph was taken.
    Any additional information about the prints, including names of personnel which do not fit into the Title field.


    Arranged in 15 series:
    1. Series I. Apparatus (1906-1971, undated)
    2. Series II. Car Collisions & Traffic Accidents (1923-1970, undated)
    3. Series III. City Departments (1948-1971, undated)
    4. Series IV. Drill School & Demonstrations (1940-1971, undated)
    5. Series V. Fire Prevention (1920-1971, undated)
    6. Series VI. Fire Stations (1906-1969, undated)
    7. Series VII. Fires (1906-1971, undated)
    8. Series VIII. Funerals (1916-1964, undated)
    9. Series IX. Ladies Auxiliary (1948-1970)
    10. Series X. Miscellaneous (1840-1971, undated)
    11. Series XI. Mutual Benefit & Union (1944-1970, undated)
    12. Series XII. Parades & Publicity (1906-1971, undated)
    13. Series XIII. Personnel (1904-1971, undated)
    14. Series XIV. Site Inspections (1948-1949)
    15. Series XV. Tests (1948-1969)

    Related Materials

    For other images and documents related to Long Beach please consult: Long Beach Fireman's Historical Museum Photographs Digital Collection , Lynch Family Letters, Southern California Photograph Album, South Bay History Collection, South Bay Photograph Collection, South Bay Photograph Digital Collection , James H. Osborne Photograph Collection  .

    Secondary Sources

    Goodrich, Glen. Images of America: Long Beach Fire Department. Charleston, SC: Arcadia Publishing, 2005.

    Subjects and Indexing Terms

    Apartment houses -- Fires and fire prevention
    Automobiles -- Collision damage
    Commercial buildings -- Fires and fire prevention
    Earthquakes -- California -- Long Beach
    Fire departments -- California -- Long Beach -- History
    Fire departments -- Employees
    Fire departments -- Equipment and supplies
    Fire departments -- Public relations
    Fire ecology -- California -- Long Beach
    Fire engines -- California -- Long Beach -- History
    Fire extinction--California--Long Beach
    Fire fighters--California--Long Beach--History
    Fire fighters -- Training of -- California -- Long Beach
    Fire investigation
    Fire prevention -- California -- Long Beach
    Fire stations -- California -- Long Beach
    Fires -- California -- Long Beach -- History
    Fires -- Casualties
    Fires -- Social aspects
    Housing -- Fires and fire prevention
    Human ecology -- California -- Long Beach
    Oil fields -- California -- Long Beach
    Oil fields -- Fires and fire prevention
    Ships -- Fires and fire prevention
    Social ecology -- California -- Long Beach
    Traffic accidents -- California -- Long Beach
    Compton (Calif.)
    Long Beach (Calif.)
    Long Beach (Calif.) -- History -- 20th century
    Los Angeles (Calif.)
    Santa Catalina Island (Calif.)
    Long Beach (Calif.). Fire Department