America's history detective, Tom Lingenfelter, is at it again. Lingenfelter has uncovered a document significant to both Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and the nation - an original, handwritten, manuscript featuring the complete list of members of the nation’s first volunteer fire company, The Union.
The Union Fire Company was the first volunteer fire company in Philadelphia and more importantly, the first formed in the United States. Founded in 1736 by Benjamin Franklin, members were required to keep and maintain their own buckets and linen salvage bags to help douse flames and carry away the personal items of those exposed to the ravages of fire.
Each member was further required to make and keep two lists of the names of each member of the company. One list was to remain posted by his bags and buckets; the other was to be carried and presented at all fire company meetings. This list was one of two lists belonging to Joseph Paschall, a member of Philadelphia’s Common Council.
At the time this list was made, Paschall was serving as the Union’s clerk. The job of clerk rotated monthly between members, as did the position of names on the list. Since Paschall’s name headed this list, he was the current clerk of the company. It most certainly was the list he carried with him as is evidenced by the folds in the paper. A lack of holes indicates that it had never been posted. Additionally, the list matches the sequence of members recorded in the manuscript minute book of the Union Fire Company now in possession of the Library Company of Philadelphia signifying that Paschal was the Company’s first clerk.
The Union’s membership featured some of the most prominent Philadelphians of the era. Most notably on this list is Benjamin Franklin, celebrated printer, scientist, entrepreneur and statesman. Other names include: Richard Sewell, Sheriff of Philadelphia; Edward Roberts, Mayor; Edward Shippen, Judge; Philip Syng, Silversmith and Official; Samuel Powel, Jr., Merchant; George Emlen, Brewer; Charles Willing, Official; Hugh Roberts, Hospital Director; Joseph Turner, Sea Captain and Merchant.
Small “X’s” are marked before and after each name. “X’s” on the right of each name are in the same ink as the document. “X’s” before each name are in pencil. Paschall’s name is the only one not marked with an a pencil “X.” Research has uncovered no other surviving example of a similar list either in private or public hands. This fine and exceedingly rare document appears to be the only remaining Union Fire Company roster in existence.
Price available upon request.