November 25, 1870: Pioneers establish Duluth’s volunteer fire department 

On this day in Duluth in 1870, Duluth Hose Company No. 1—the foundation of what would become today’s Duluth Fire Department—was first organized. Foreman E. M. Bloomer, assistant foreman T. H. Pressnell, secretary A. S. Chase, steward James Farrell, and vigilance committee members E. M. Bloomer, L. H. Tenney, and George Spencer led the group, which had a total membership of 32 at the time (and had set its limit to 50 men). It soon became clear that, due to a lack of available horses, an entirely separate company would have to be formed to transport and operate the steam engine pump. On December 24, the Minnesotian reported that Duluth Engine Company No. 1 had been formed with Thomas Young as foreman, Charles Lord 1st assistant foreman, John Pugsley 2nd assistant foreman, J. C. Palmer treasurer, George Venable secretary, and Samuel Osslander steward. The newspaper then declared “A hook and ladder company is all that is now needed to complete our Fire Department. Both hose and engine companies made the Clark House Hotel its unofficial home, and the hotel hosted the annual Fireman’s ball there until it burned to the ground in 1881. At the time, the Duluth Weekly Tribune lamented the fact that Duluth still did not have a Hook and Ladder Company, which it was certain could have taken down a burning shed that many think helped spread the fire beyond containment.

Member of Duluth’s “Hose Company #1″—the city’s volunteer fire department—posing on the steps of the Clark House Hotel in 1872. (Image: University of Minnesota Duluth Kathryn A. Martin Library Archives and Special Collections)