American, Kentucky, probably Louisville
Chief Director, Mechanic Fire Company No. 1, about 1855
78 × 31 3/8 × 41 in. (198.1 × 79.7 × 104.1 cm.)
Gift of Mr. William C. Bittner 1949.17 a,b
How Was This Used?
When a fire alarm sounded, the Chief Director, perched atop his downtown Louisville fire house, was rotated to point toward the fire, directing volunteers to the scene of the emergency. Since different volunteer companies often raced to the same fire, a speedy arrival was a matter of intense competition. A Louisville firefighter of the 1850s described the results: “fights occurred at practically every fire of consequence, when spanner, trumpets and fists were freely used, but never any gunplay.”