Friendship Fire Company.­—by J. Muir.



ENGINES.—The first Engine owned by the Company, was a small souting or gallery engine, built by Gibbs, of Philadelphia, in 1775, and was constructed so as to be filled by buckets, or by means of a spout, the wheels being made very low to admit of the engine being placed under a pump.

This engine cost £81, or $272, and was sold in 1809 for $75. The second engine, usually called “Blue Dick,” was built by Lyon, of Philadelphia, in 1799, and cost $500. This engine was always trusty and true; rarely, if ever, being called into service without rendering efficient duty, and was sold in 1851 to Mr. Rodgers, of Baltimore. On the union of the Friendship and Crescent Companies in 1838, the former came in possession of a tolerably effective engine, of about like size and model of “Blue Dick,” styled “No. 2,” and which, on many occasions, rendered effectual service in staying the fiery foe. This engine formerly belonged to the Sun or Star, and was bought in 1824 by the “King Street Company,” subsequently styled the “Crescent,” and in 1855 was sold to Mr. Carr, in part payment for a bell.

The beautiful Suction Engine now owned by the Company, was built in 1851, by Mr. Rodgers, of Baltimore, and cost $1100, of which the Corporation paid $800, and it was repaired and repainted in 1855, at a cost of $300, Council paying $180. The Engine is of the most substantial construction, having a mahogany box, balloon shaped air vessel, levers and arms of best style, and wheels of unusual strength, as best suited to a rapid movement over our rough streets—the whole constituting an engine of decided beauty and efficiency.

REELS AND HOSE.—The first Hose Reel ever owned by the Company, is the large and cumbersome one now belonging to it, that was built in 1839, by Mr. J, Summers, of Alexandria, and cost $150, which was paid by the Corporation. The small Reel, or “Plug Catcher,” was built in 1851, by Mr. Rodgers, and cost $75, which was paid by the Company, and another handsome four wheel Reel, is now being built by Mr. Prettyman, by order of the City council, at a cost of $350. The first Hose owned by the Company was granted by Council in 1839, when the Friendship received 300 feet, the Sun 300 feet, and the Relief 100 feet. In 1840, the Friendship received 100 feet more, and in 1851 about 200 feet of rubber hose was received from the Corporation—some 350 feet of rather indifferent hose being all that is now in possession of the Company.

BELLS AND BANNERS.—The first bell owned by the Company, or by any Alexandria Fire Company, was bought in 1839, at auction, for $34, and weighed 186 lbs. This bell originally belonged to a light boat, and was rendered useless by the fire which took place in 1855. A new bell, weighing 350 lbs., and costing $150, was bought of Mr. Carr, same year, the old bell and engine being taken in part payment. This bell was accidentally broken in saluting a visiting Fire Company, shortly after being swung, and the present finely toned bell, weighing about 500 lbs., and costing, with its fixtures, $220, was bought of Register & Webb, Baltimore—the injured bell being taken in part payment.

The handsome green Banner of the Company was purchased in 1839, and cost $50; and “the star-spangled banner” that has so frequently waved from our flag staff, was bought the same year.

AXES and TORCHES.—Axes ever formed a part of the Friendship’s fire “fixins,” and our axemen have usually been prompt in wielding them, if not quite so judicious at all times as might be desired.

The first Torch owned by the Company, was bought in Baltimore, in 1814, by C. Pascoe, for $3, and T. Shields was appointed to take charge of it; and this is the only torch known to have been in the Company’s possession up to 1839, when four handsome brass torches, costing $3 each, were bought, and are still in use, thought two are frequently untrimmed when needed. R.F. Prettyman was appointed a torch-bearer in 1835, and was the first minor that joined the Company, and is still a member. Hooks and ladders were in possession of the Company as early as 1777, to which hooks and chains were attached in 1787; but these very useful “fixins” have not been in possession of the Company for many years.


BADGES AND UNIFORMS.—Prior to 1839, badges were used only by the officers, a plain yellow badge, with black letters, denoting the position of the member. In 1839, large fire capes, costing $3 each, and a hat badge to correspond, were adopted and generally worn, but soon fell into disuse. Subsequently, a blue frock coat, with metal buttons, met with a like fate. In 1852, a general distribution was made to all the Fire Companies, by order of Council, but these, also, have nearly disappeared. The uniform of the Company is now a blue jacket and handsomely painted hat.

FRIENDSHIP AND CRESCENT UNION.—On the organization of the Hydraulion Fire Company, in 1827, and the location of its Engine House and Engines in the Market Square, it soon became apparent that an efficient membership for three companies—the Friendship, Sun, and Hydraulion, whose apparatus was so contiguous—could not be maintained, and hence at a meeting, in 1838, of 14 members of the Friendship, six of whom have since died, on motion of J. Muir, it was “resolved, that the interest of the Company, and the wishes of the community, require the removal of the Engine to some eligible location west of Columbus street.” The expediency of this removal was the more apparent from the fact that, excepting the Crescent—which was organized in 1824, and had a large membership but rather unreliable apparatus—there was no Company west of Washington street, and the Crescent, moreover, was desirous to unite with the Friendship, provided its location was changed. This resolution of the Friendship was immediately responded to by the Crescent, which agreed to unite with the Friendship, provided the members of the former would be received as members of the latter without any initiation fee. On this being agreed to, the two companies became united, and the Friendship at once received an accession of 48 members, of whom probably not over five persons can now be regarded as belonging to the Company. The Engine was them temporarily removed to the Crescent house, which was located on the south side of King street, between Fayette and Henry streets, and was about like size and model of that vacated on Royal street—the lot being the property of Wm. Veitch. So ended the Crescent.


MISCELLANEOUS.—In 1807, staffs shaped like handspikes, were used by the regulators, and were so used until 1838. In 1825, the Secretary presented a claim of $125 for services, and ten shares of bank stock, held by the Company, were sold to pay him.

In 1833, an effort was made to re-organize the Company, but one meeting having been held during four years preceding. In 1839, a complimentary letter, enclosing a voluntary donation of $50, was received from an Insurance Company, because of services rendered at the City Hotel; and the first and most imposing firemen’s procession that every occurred in Alexandria, took place the same year. Hose were used in our city for the first time in 1827, when they were used by several companies who came down from Washington, to aid in extinguishing the great fire which occurred that year. Leather buckets were used more or less until 1840, when all our companies obtained hose. Under the old regime, every occupant of a house was required by a law still extant, though now obsolete, to “provide as many fire buckets, made of leather, and to hold 2_ gallons each, as should be equal in number to the stories of such house.”

These buckets were required to be taken or sent to every fire, and were usually filled at a pump and passed by hand to the engine, which was placed near the fire, and from thence again returned to the pump, thus making a complete and often tedius circuit through a double line of men and boys extending from the pump to the engine.


CONCLUSION.—Such are some of the many incidents relating to the Friendship Fire Company, the recital of which may not be inappropriate to the present occasion—tending as they do to show the rise, progress, and present condition of an Institution whose decline, it is hoped, no one present will have occasion to recount.

The Company has just completed the most important of its many undertakings—the erection of an edifice that is truly creditable to the Company and ornamental to the city, and, being entirely paid for, is one of which the Friendship may well be proud—if that pride begets, as it should, an enduring Friendship upon the part of its members for each other, and “the rest of mankind”—

“For only Friendship among men is the true republic,
Where all have equality of service and all have freedom of command.”

FELLOW FIREMEN—I thank you for your respectful attention, and hope, if you have not been particularly interested or instructed, that you do not regret your attendance. On some future occasion, if you will favor me with your presence, I may make some reference to the duties of a fireman, both as regards himself and the public generally, and, also, as to the duty of the public in respect to firemen.


Pending the delivery of the lecture, frequent reference was made to the Company’s records, for the purpose of verifying many of the lecturer’s statements.