It was a pleasant afternoon in August of 1872 as the parade moved along the main street of Auburn, N.Y. A state convention of a benevolent organization had just concluded one of its annual meetings and the members were passing review of the town folk. A group of local volunteer firemen stood on the curb watching, when one of them, whose name history does not record, spoke up, asking: “Why not have a firemen’s convention?” Little did any of those boys realize at the time that this chance remark would provide the incentive for the formation of what was to become one of the largest organizations in the state.
Word was passed around in the various fire companies that they were to meet soon to consider organizing the details for a permanent Firemen’s Association.
On September 2nd the members of the Auburn fire department met at the courthouse. After “much free and uninterrupted discussion” it was agreed that each of the six fire companies at their next monthly meetings would select three members to act as a committee. This steering committee was to meet with the officers of the department on September 6th to present the report relative to forming a national firemen’s association.
Three members each from Logan Hook and Ladder Co. No. 1, Neptune Hose Co. No. 1, Auburn Hose Co. No. 2, Niagara Hose Co. No. 3, Cayuga Hose Co. No. 4 and Union Hose Co. No. 5 were selected at the regular monthly meetings of the companies on September 4th. This committee met the next evening and prepared a report, which was presented at the September 6th meeting of the entire fire department.
The report was in the form of a resolution stating that the object of the association be “co-operative in nature and with the view to improve the general government of the fire departments, the discussion and adoption of modern and improved fire apparatus, as well as a general interchange of ideas and a discussion of important questions pertaining to the various duties of firemen.”
The resolution also called for the appointment of an executive committee of three, with full power, and subordinate committees on finance, entertainment, and reception. It stated that at the convention there shall preside a president, six vice-presidents, one corresponding secretary and one recording secretary, also that each company in all fire departments be entitled to one representative in the convention, his expenses to be defrayed by his respective company.
The report was again read and adopted by clauses. On motion, the following persons were appointed to the respective committees named in the resolution:
George Milk-Logan and Ladder Co.
Joseph H. Norris-Neptune Hose Co.
George Friend-Auburn Hose Co.
N.D. Kierst-Niagara Hose Co.
Wright Milk-Cayuga Hose Co.
Charles Tallowday-Union Hose Co.
George Smith-Logan Hook and Ladder Co.
A. Sanford-Niagara Hose Co.
Wright Milk-Cayuga Hose Co.
Lewis Montgomery-Union Hose Co.
William McEwan-Logan Hook and Ladder Co.
Joseph Furness-Neptune Hose Co.
H.P. Brown-Cayuga Hose Co.
A meeting of the executive committee was held on September 11th. At this meeting it was decided that the first annual Convention of the Firemen’s National Association be held in the City of Auburn on Tuesday and Wednesday, October 1st and 2nd, 1872. It was also decided that each fire company in every fire department in the United States be invited to send one delegate, and that the Chief Engineer of every department be requested to procure a list of the names of the delegates selected in his locality and forward the same to the secretary.
As the day for the opening of the Convention drew near, interest and enthusiasm in the project grew by leaps and bounds. Eleven states sent letters indicating that they would send delegates, though when the Convention opened, only Paterson, NJ and Des Moines, IA were represented. The business community was generous in supplying funds to be used “toward carrying out the purposes of the Committee of Arrangements and the Reception Committee for the hospitable entertainment of all delegates, who will be cared for with a welcome to ensure their best comfort.”
Plans for the first day called for the business of organizing a Firemen’s National Convention and “addresses from good speakers.”
In the evening, a Grand Inauguration Ball would be held at the Academy of Music. The second day would be devoted to a parade and amusements. Visiting steam fire engines, hose and other companies would compete in tests, and a trial of the city water works would be given. As a special feature, arrangements were made for a half-mile race between Hose Co. No. 7 of Ithaca and Niagara Hose Co. No. 3 of Auburn.
Invitations were sent to Syracuse, Ithaca and Oswego inviting fire engine companies to be present with their apparatus. For music, the 49th Regiment Band was engaged. The committee let it be known that contributions were being solicited for dinners of the visiting firemen and that baskets of refreshments of any kind should be left at the Academy of Music by 10:00 a.m. on the second day of the Convention.
The morning session began an hour later than the scheduled time period. Only two pieces of business were enacted — the report of the Business Committee and the appointment of the first Executive Committee.
Mr. Smith of Oswego, chairman of the Business Committee presented his report in the form of a Resolution, the main points being “That the firemen of Auburn did a wise and beneficent act in organizing the Convention” and that it was found upon assembling that only a portion of this and other states were represented, “Therefore, Be It Resolved: That this body be known as the Firemen’s Association of the State of New York.”