African-American firefighter. Cabinet card, circa 1890 | Illinois History and Lincoln Collections
This collection consists of a cabinet card depicting an African American firefighter in uniform. The card was made by the photography business Huszagh based in Chicago, Illinois.
Chicago's first Black fire department was Engine Company 21, established in 1872. Engine Company 21 was the first fire department to install a fireman’s pole from the fire station’s sleeping space to the ground floor, allowing firefighters to respond more quickly to emergencies. After it became clear that Engine Company 21 consistently arrived at fires before other companies, many other stations began installing fire poles. Black firefighters were officially allowed to join other fire stations in the early 1900s but were often discriminated against and forced to resign or be reassigned to Engine Company 21.
This collection consists of a 4.25 by 6.5 inch cabinet card of an African American firefighter in uniform. The firefighter was likely a member of Chicago's Engine Company 21. Huszagh, "Artistic Photographer," created the cabinet card. It is undated but likely dates to the later nineteenth century. Cabinet cards were a common style of portrait photography that reached peak popularity in the 1880s.
The Library purchased this collection in 2022 with the support of the Bruce C. Creamer Fund.