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Firefighting in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, 1741-1917


By John M. Malecky October, 2018

Firefighting in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, 1741-1917
By Chris Eline, Nancy Rutman and Karen Samuels

Available from:
Karen Samuels (note, number “0”) or from

Price: $34.95

This book is softcover, 8 inches by 10 inches, and is 136 pages long. It was put together by the exhaustive research of the three authors mentioned above. I am really not a history buff, but after reviewing this book I was totally impressed by their dedication and relentless pursuit in the details and contents of this book. All are residents of Bethlehem and Chris was a member of the BFD for 24 years.

This book is actually a history of four fire departments which represented four sections of the city: North Side, South Side, West Side and Northampton Heights. Bethlehem, nicknamed the “Christmas City”, is in Northampton County and was founded in 1741. The forward is written by the former mayor and councilman. Almost every page has some sort of illustration, whether it be a photo, picture, painting, map, drawing or what have you, there is much to enjoy when reading this publication. In fact, if a page does not have an illustration, there is one on the opposite page!

Within the pages of the different chapters are three topics including Tools of the Trade (from simple buckets to the Hayes hook & ladder trucks), Memorable Fires, and Faces at the Scene (about memorable personalities). Some are side stories, but all are interesting. One is about the Norman Horse (Tools of the Trade) on page 25. This type horse was purchased because it was fast, intelligent and strong. It was bred as a war horse and ranged from 5 foot 6 inches to 5 foot 11 inches tall. There is a picture of this type horse on this page.

On page 29 is a brief about the Matthews hydrant and the reasons behind its design that made it superior. I remember a section of my hometown that has some Matthews hydrants! Sanborn fire insurance maps are also written about. I remember a book of these maps in our fire headquarters. These maps detailed the structures in town with an overhead drawing. All in all, this book is a must for anyone interested in history. You will not be disappointed!

The three authors have a partnership called Perseverance Publishing and are working on a another book, Firefighting in Bethlehem, 1981-2018, which would bring the city’s history up to date. It is expected to be published this year.

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John MaleckySenior Columnist

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