Who Were They?

Lost and forgotten photos from the past

For this week’s Sepia Saturday prompt, we were given a nurse presumably heading out to make rounds at patient homes. Since I featured my nurse photos earlier this year, I was wondering if I would be able to find something to go along with the theme. Then I remembered this photograph of a fireman that I have been holding onto for just the right post, and realized this is it!

This photograph is taken from an album I have been meaning to work through, but it is the only one that really grabbed my attention enough to be scanned. The man’s cap features the Maltese Cross, which is the traditional symbol of the fireman. The story goes that during the Crusades, the Knights of St. John were doused with naptha (highly flammable liquid) then set on fire. While some knights were injured severely and some killed, others sacrificed their own safety to fight the fires that were consuming their compatriots. Since the Knights of St. John resided on Malta, their symbol was called the Maltese Cross, and they were considered the first firemen.

I have deep respect for firemen. When everyone else is running away from a fire, they are the ones running toward it. It is a calling and not a job that a person should perform halfheartedly. When I was in school there was a classmate of mine who while walking to school one day saw smoke billowing from a house. He ran inside, found the residents and helped them get out – at the age of 16 or 17 years old, this is more courage than most people have as mature adults.

This particular fireman’s name is lost to the ages. He strikes a fine figure in his uniform and I like to think of him performing his job admirably. During a little research for this post, I learned that the town of Exeter NH had the first fire alarm installed in 1891, and shortly thereafter it was pulled for a house fire. The town fireman were able to extinguish the fire, proving the success of the fire alarm, and several more were subsequently installed around town. I do not know if this fellow is from Exeter or even Haverhill, MA where the photographer Fuller Studio had another location. Haverhill is not all that far from Exeter, maybe 17 miles or so.

If you have enjoyed this sepia image, please click through to Sepia Saturday for more!

13 thoughts on “Fireman

  1. Wendy says:

    My nephew recently graduated from the fire academy. I’m sending a link to this post to my sister. I’m sure she’ll enjoy the story of the Maltese cross.


  2. Mary says:

    Thank you for the interesting information about the Maltese Cross. Love the picture of your firefighter!


  3. Bob Scotney says:

    I’ve worked a lot with fire brigades in the UK but never knew about the origin of firemen with the Knights of St John. The Maltese Cross must have been used in the US as I can find no trace of it in the UK.


  4. Jo says:

    Interesting history and what a handsome young fireman ;-) Jo


  5. Wonderful photo and post … thank you, I didn’t know all that stuff about firefighting history.

    Kathy M.


  6. postcardy says:

    Very interesting. I never knew about the Maltese Cross being a symbol of firemen. That’s an attractive photo too.


  7. A neat photo. Could the badge make him the firechief? Many photos of fireman are posed with their brass megaphone used to make their orders heard over the sounds of the fire.


  8. Alan Burnett says:

    Really interesting about the Maltese Cross – like Bob I had never come across it in the UK. The photograph is fascinating as well – there is a real person behind that uniform, behind that mustache.


  9. Little Nell says:

    He looks like someone who took his duties very seriously. A smart uniform too.


  10. Liz Stratton says:

    Loved learning about the Maltese Cross and I share your respect for firemen. I have a very good friend who is a fire-fighter. It is hard not to worry.


  11. IntenseGuy says:

    Sharp looking dude!

    All the firemen around here are Volunteers and none of them wear a uniform as such…


  12. He is a real handsome man..and no doubt a hero to many..the uniform is striking:)


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