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Union and Naumkeag Engine Company Number 5 Records

Union and Naumkeag Engine Company Number 5 Records

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Collection Summary

Repository:The Phillips Library at the Peabody Essex Museum 132 Essex Street Salem, MA 01970 Phone: 978-745-9500 Fax: 978-531-1516
Creator:Union and Naumkeag Engine Company No. 5 (Salem, Mass.), (1748-1861)
Title:Union and Naumkeag Engine Company Number 5 Records
Quantity:0.5 linear feet (1 box)
Abstract:The records of the Union and Naumkeag Engine Company Number 5 document the activities of this Salem, Massachusetts, fire-fighting company.
Collection Number:MSS 293

Series List

Scope and Content Note

The records of the Union and Naumkeag Engine Company Number 5 document the activities of this Salem, Massachusetts, fire-fighting company. It includes both original records and some copies.

The record book in folder 1 contains the text of an Act of the General Court, February 1786, on the establishment of engine companies, with a chronological record of annual and monthly meetings, including regulations and periodic listings of members and fines levied against them. In 1811, the occurrence of alarms and fires began for be noted. In 1819, Robert Peele began serving as Clerk and Treasurer of the company, and records became more organized and legible. (Peele served in that post through 1849.) A separate section of the book lists member with the fines assessed against them for the period 1819 to1823, with record of total expenditure and total fines received each year.

The record book in folder 2 is arranged chronologically. It includes reports of annual, monthly, and special meetings; alarms and fires; absences at roll calls; and changes in membership. There is a list of fines assessed to each member and a record of total expenditures and total fines received each year, 1822 to 1850.

The record book in folder 3 is also arranged chronologically, and, like the book above, includes reports of annual, monthly, and special meetings; alarms and fires; absences at roll calls; and changes in membership. Information about fines is integrated chronologically.

A notebook in folder 4 contains resolutions regarding fines and a list of members and fines from 1776 to1786, a copy of the founding petition of 1748, annual meeting records for 1790 to 1798, and fines for 1791 to 1799. Also included in this notebook is a membership list from 1748 to 1861.

The notebook in folder 5 includes copies of the founding petition of 1748 and a membership list from 1748 to 1861. Beginning at the far right side of the notebook is a membership list of the Franklin Hook & Ladder company from 1832 to 1869.

The notebook in folder 6 contains a copy of the Register of Members prepared by Philip G. Skinner, 1856. This register is similar but not identical to the list noted above. The notebook also contains a record of fires, 1811 to 1858, compiled from record books by Charles H., Daniels, which lists the company clerk, the date and fire location, and in some instances, related information such as outcome and weather conditions. Also in the notebook are various financial records of the company 1852 to 1858 and copies of correspondence, 1858.

Miscellaneous papers in folder 7 include a history of the company's engines, 1866, an undated report on the governance, finances, and benefits of fire associations in Boston Lowell, Lynn, and Nee Haven; and two membership certificates and a letter from unidentified fire companies (possible the Franklin Fire Society.)

Biographical Sketch

The Union Fire Club of Salem, Massachusetts, was founded in 1748. In 1749, members petitioned the Salem Town Meeting to buy a fire engine and form a company to run it; in return they were to be excused from town duties, such as jury duty. The engine was received in 1749 and was named the Union. Like other early fire engines, the Union was horse-drawn and had no suction; it had to be filled from buckets. That engine is now the collection of the Peabody Essex Museum, as well as an oil painting of it, entitled "The Union Hand-Tub," by W. B Eaton (1836-1890).

A second engine was received in 1750 and remained in use until 179[7], when a third engine named the Essex, was purchased. At this period in time the company was known as the Union and Essex Engine Company. In 1827, a hose carriage and hose were attached to the engines and as a consequence new members were added.

In 1832, the town of Salem proposed construction of a building at the corner of Court and Forrester streets to house this engine company, along with the Sail Company and the Hook & Ladder Company. In 1834, the structure, known as the Hall, was completed, and the building was rented to Miss Cross's Primary School for Girls, with the provision that the companies would use the Hall for evening meetings and at other times "which should not interfere with the School." (In 1857 the company petitioned the Salem Board of Engineers that Sail Carriage No. 2 be removed from the building because of lack of space and the dissolution of the company which operated it.)

In September 1836, the company petitioned the City Council for a new engine "of equal power with the other Engines of the city." On September 23, 1837, the Chief Engineer of the Salem Fire Department reported that the City Council had authorized an expenditure of $750 to purchase an engine and fixtures from Hunneman, Thayer and Hill of Roxbury. The engine was received on October 11th and was named the Naumkeag; the company changed its name that day to the Union and Naumkeag Engine Company.

In July 1844, the Salem City Council denied a petition of "a portion of the Fire Department" that fireman should receive additional compensation, and a number of firefighters from other companies resigned. A special meeting of the Union and Naumkeag Engine Company unanimously passed a resolution that "Although a considerable portion of our Company are in favour of a further compensation we as good citizens and members of the Fire Department pledge ourselves to an active and faithful performance of the duties of Firemen…."

In addition to responding to fires, the company held regular meetings and holiday celebrations, including parades. A ball was held to commemorate the company's 106th anniversary, in 1854, and there were other anniversary celebrations in 1855 and 1858.

The company claimed to own the oldest engine in the United States and to be the oldest engine company in the country that could show an uninterrupted existence. It was disbanded in 1861, after the introduction of steam fire engines. The membership roster lists a total of 557 members, from 1748 to 1861.

Index Terms

This collection is indexed under the following headings in Philcat. Researchers desiring materials about related topics, persons, or places should search the catalog using these headings.

Peele, Robert, Jr.
Franklin Hook and Ladder Co. No. 1 (Salem, Mass.)
Union and Essex Engine Company
Union Fire Club (Salem, Mass.)
Account books--1819-1858
Account books--Massachusetts--Salem
Fire alarms--Massachusetts--Salem
Fire clubs (Cooperative societies)
Fire departments--Massachusetts--Salem
Salem (Mass.)


Restrictions on Access

This collection is open for research use.

Administrative Information


Requests for permission to publish material from the collection must be submitted in writing to the Manuscript Librarian in the Phillips Library at the Peabody Essex Museum.

Preferred Citation

Union and Naumkeag Engine Company Number 5 Records, MSS 293, Phillips Library, Peabody Essex Museum, Salem, Mass.


The record books for 1822-1850 and 1844-1858 were purchased on Joly 21, 1914. The 1847 membership certificate was donated in 1947. The notebook labeled "A Register of the Members…," the history headed "The Union Fire Engine ...," and the report on governance were donated by Helen Hagar in 1963. The provenance of the other items is unknown.

Processing Information

Collection processed by Pamela Matz, November 1996. Updated by Tamara Gaydos, January 2016.

Related Material

Harper's Weekly, a Journal of Civilization. Vol. 10. New York: Harper and Brothers, 1861.

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