My name is Fire Captain Philip Hayes. I have been with the SFD for more than 34 years. I have been a history fan for most of my life.
As a young firefighter, I discovered a collection of old photographs in a box at the Stamford Fire Department. But that is all we had. Everything else related to the history of the SFD had been given away, sold, or acquired by interested parties. So I began cataloging the photos and organizing them by date… putting them into folders. Additional small historical items were occasionally found and added to the folder collection. As is often the case, a busy personal and professional life took me away from it. But several other SFD members stepped in and did some work on the collection during my absence.
But about ten years ago, I discovered that people were selling SFD artifacts on eBay, and I began wondering… would it be possible to recover some of the items that were lost to time. The answer was an unqualified YES! So I set off on my mission…
My goal was to recover as many historical items as I could in the name of every Stamford Firefighter who ever worked for the Department. History plays an important role in understanding how far we have come as an organization and how we got to where we are today as a Fire Department.
Fire Chief Trevor Roach has agreed to provide space for these items to be displayed at Fire headquarters. In fact, several walls of the third floor are already wallpapered with enlarged photographs of some of the photos that I have recovered and restored. I am hoping that some historical items may eventually go back to the firehouses they originally belonged to.
Since this new mission began, I have recovered countless historical items related to the history of the Stamford Fire Department. These items include ball programs, Fire Chief tumpets, helmets, badges and much more. You can learn more about them at stamfordfirehistory.org. This is a website I built and currently pay for. It hopefully will be passed on to someone who equally shares in my love for SFD history.
Several weeks ago, I became aware of some incredible items that several collectors had acquired and are now looking to sell. The historical fire collectibles market is hot. Collectors, many of whom are firefighters themselves, buy, sell and trade items at shows and online regularly. These collectors have given me the time and priority opportunity to raise the funds necessary to purchase them.
These items include identification plates from Stamford’s very first steam fire engines called “Stamford 1” and “Stamford 2”. “Stamford 1” was purchased BEFORE the creation of the career fire department by the then Stamford volunteer fire companies. The photo of the Steamer Engine shown is of “Stamford 2”. The picture depicts Engineer John George Schlechtweg pumping at the 1904 Town Hall Fire.
The items also include several photo albums of EVERY member of the SFD (and more) as of May 12, 1902. They were presented as a gift to Fire Chief George Bowman, who was suffering from a severe case of tuberculosis.
Chief Bowman was incredibly influential in the creation and establishment of Stamford’s first paid Fire Department in 1887. And he was beloved by the City and the members of the Department. The three albums contain over one hundred and sixty photographs. Three months after receiving the photos, Fire Chief Bowman left Stamford in search of healthier air in the Adirondacks. He died just under a year later, on September 14th, 1904 in Saranac Lake, New York. He is buried at Woodland Cemetery on Stamford’s south end.
Another collector has a turn-of-the-century helmet that appears to have belonged to a member of the Rippowam Volunteer Fire Company.
I hope you will join me in appreciating the value of these artifacts and consider making a donation in the name of bringing them home. Yes, the price tag is steep, but the opportunity to recover historical items related to the SFD is fairly uncommon. All those that have contributed more than $25 to any of the fundraising efforts I have had, will be remembered in a memorabilia book that will be displayed with the artifacts.
Please browse through some sample of the items we are attempting to acquire.
Click to enlarge and photo. You can then browse through enlarged photos.