Wednesday May 19, 2021’s Smile of the Day: The Fire Alarm

On this Day:

In 1857, Americans William Francis Channing and Moses G Farmer patented the electric fire alarm.

A fire alarm system warns people when smoke, fire, carbon monoxide or other fire-related emergencies are detected. These alarms may be activated automatically from smoke detectors, and heat detectors or may also be activated via manual fire alarm activation devices such as manual call points or pull stations. Alarms can be either motorized bells or wall mountable sounders or horns. They can also be speaker strobes which sound an alarm, followed by a voice evacuation message which warns people inside the building not to use the elevators. Fire alarm sounders can be set to certain frequencies and different tones including low, medium and high, depending on the country and manufacturer of the device. Most fire alarm systems in Europe sound like a siren with alternating frequencies. Fire alarm electronic devices are known as horns in the United States and Canada, and can be either continuous or set to different codes. Fire alarm warning devices can also be set to different volume levels.

William Francis Channing (February 22, 1820 – March 20, 1901) was an American activist, electrical researcher, scientist, physician, and inventor. He invented the first citywide electric fire alarm system. Channing worked with Alexander Graham Bell in developing the telephone.

Channing began to study at Harvard and graduated in 1839. He decided to follow medicine instead and went to the University of Pennsylvania. Channing did a thesis on the “Application of Chemistry to Physiology” in 1844 for his doctorate and received a degree in medicine.

Channing was an assistant on the first geological survey of New Hampshire during 1841–42. He was associated with Henry Ingersoll Bowditch in the editorship of the Latimer Journal in Boston from 1842 to 1843. He also served in the capacity as an assistant on the geological survey of the copper region of Lake Superior in 1847.

Samuel Morse invented the telegraph in 1837 and commercial usage was begun in 1844. Channing spun off this technology to create a citywide fire alarm system. With the assistance of Professor Farmer, an electrical engineer, they developed a fire-alarm telegraph. They talked the officials of Boston into financing the construction of a citywide fire alarm system. The first central office was located at 21 Court Square. The city owned the building. The system began testing on 28 April 1852. The first fire alert was received the very next night. Channing and Moses obtained a patent on this electrical telegraph system on 19 May 1857. It was US Patent #17,355 and known as the American fire-alarm telegraph or the “city system.”

The object of the fire-alarm system was to give a fast alarm in a city in case of fire. It first gave a signal to the central station of a fire from a local neighborhood. The citywide system was to provide a signaling station near all houses. The central station then had a bell-tower to give an alert by means of a bell that could be heard by many. The central office knew where the local fire was and the public could respond accordingly.

Channing, being a medical physician, looked at electric wires and the human nervous system as resembling each other. He looked at this first fire-alarm system as merely an application of the fundamentals of self-preservation that is found throughout nature (per Wikipedia).

First, a Story:

A wife asked her husband if she could have some peace and quiet while she was cooking dinner.  So he took the batteries out of the smoke alarm

Second, a Song:

Harry James Lincoln aka Harry Jay Lincoln (13 April 1878 Shamokin, Pennsylvania – 19 April 1937 Philadelphia) was a music composer from Williamsport, Pennsylvania.

Aside from running his own publication company, he wrote many marches and rags, such as the Bees Wax Rag (1911), the Lincoln Highway two step march (1921), and quite possibly the Repasz Band March (1901). This last composition, created for the local Repasz Band of Williamsport, Pennsylvania (founded in 1831 and currently the oldest brass band still in existence in the United States), has also been credited to its trombonist Charles C. Sweeley; however, evidence indicates that Sweeley had bought rights to the march from Lincoln.

Vandersloot Music Publishing Company was an American publisher of marches, waltzes, rags, religious music, and popular music of the Tin Pan Alley genre. The firm was founded in 1899 by Frederick William Vandersloot, Jr. (1866–1931) and his brother, Caird Melvill Vandersloot (born 1869). F. W. Vandersloot was a gospel singer, composer, and choir director. In 1913, the firm was based at 233 West 3rd Street, Williamsport, Pennsylvania with an office in New York at 41 W 18th Street, an area ten blocks directly south of what then became known as Tin Pan Alley.

For many years, Harry James Lincoln served as the composer and general manager of Vandersloot Music. Cora E. Vandersloot, née Elwert (1869–1944), wife of F. W. Vandersloot, had also served as president and manager. In 1929, Harry J. Lincoln acquired part of the Vandersloot Music Publishing Company and moved it to Philadelphia and operated it under the same name. When F. W. Vandersloot died in 1931, the firm dissolved, with much of the inventory being acquired by New York publisher Jack Mills (per Wikipedia).

Here is Harry James Lincoln’s composition, The Midnight Fire Alarm.  I hope you enjoy this!


Thought for the Day:

“One of the strongest characteristics of genius is the power of lighting its own fire.” – John W. Foster


Have a great day!

Dave & Colleen

© 2021 David J. Bilinsky and Colleen E. Bilinsky

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