09/19/14 351 W, 1 I - + 12 - 5 Durham Fire Department History Bits - 1935 to 1969

Found these while browing the bookshelves at Olivia Raney Local History Library on Carya Drive in Raleigh. They are Durham Morning Herald index cards from back in the day. Someone somewhere copied the index cards and bound them into books. The library has a copy on their open shelves. There are four books (volumes), covering topics from "A" to "Z". 

Newspaper index cards are similar to a library's card catalog. They served as an index to either all or major articles of a paper, and were used primarily by staff to find or research older stories. Card collections might be copied and later bound and donated to a local library. And/or photographed on microfilm for library use, as happened with the News & Observer index cards. (The cards were later digitized in recent years, and can be viewed on this site. See prior posting.)

Here are the index cards about the Durham Fire Department. They represent a nifty historical perspective on both (a.) major events in the department and (b.) "slices of life" representing what caught the attention of the morning newspaper. Next question, where can you read some of these stories? e.g., where or what are the archives for the Durham Morning Herald? Let me look into that some time.

Reading the cards reveals all manner of interesting things. Black firefighters were proposed as early as 1949, for example. Council deferred, but recommended to "augment Negro personnel on police force." Winston-Salem would hire their first black firefighters two years later. Durham would wait another nine years before making that move. (Related posting.)

There's discussion of county fire protection in the 1940s. The city was providing protection to rural communities, as no other fire departments were yet organized in Durham County. By the end of that decade, the county had purchased a fire engine. It was placed in service on August 18, 1948. If memory serves, it was housed at Station 1 and operated by a city crew. 

View the index cards (PDF, 5MB) 

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