Skip to Main Content
New York State Library Logo

The Firefighters Collection

Dr. Thomas S. Walsh, Jr. Firefighting Collection

Among the Library's firefighting resources, the single largest collection, and one of the largest in the entire state, is the Dr. Thomas S. Walsh, Jr. Firefighting Collection. A prominent Albany surgeon, Dr. Walsh pursued the study and collection of material on the history of firefighting as a hobby for more than half a century. Books, periodicals, manuscripts, photographs, equipment catalogues and ephemera represent in detail the history of firefighting technology in the United States and Great Britain, including a full record of the development of firefighting equipment and hardware from the 19th century to the present.

The books (the oldest dating back to the 1600s), journals and historic documents in this collection include:

  • 19th century magazines like Harper's Weekly and Leslie's Illustrated Weekly featuring stories and pictures of famous fires;
  • constitutions and by-laws of some 18th and 19th century volunteer fire companies, including the original 1793 copy of the constitution of the New York City Fire Department, complete with blackened edges from the 1911 Capitol fire;
  • broadsides and musical scores about particular fires and fire departments;
  • an old scrapbook with 100-year-old photos of firemen, equipment and fires;
  • catalogs of the beautiful engines produced by Seagraves, American LaFrance and other manufacturers; and
  • minute books and other records of companies from Buffalo to Albany.

The Dr. Thomas S. Walsh, Jr. Firefighting Collection is available for research and study in the Manuscripts and Special Collections Research Room.