Being a volunteer firefighter was apparently the thing to do in colonial America. Tradition has it that George Washington was one, along with Thomas Jefferson, Ben Franklin and a host of other Founding Fathers.
Local lore in Alexandria, Virginia claims that George Washington was a founding member of the Friendship Fire Company. Friendship was the first volunteer fire company in Alexandria, established in 1774. A photographer’s description accompanying a 1931 photo on the Library of Congress website even claims that Washington bought a fire engine for the company, in Philadelphia in 1775.
Not so fast, says the Friendship Firehouse Museum. “[E]xtensive research has not produced evidence to substantiate these traditions” says their exhibit on George Washington’s role in fire fighting. The fire engine in the Library of Congress photo, captioned the “George Washington fire engine,” (my photo above) isn’t. It was purchased by the fire company in 1851.
The Friendship Firehouse is a museum owned by the city of Alexandria and open on weekend afternoons. They hold an annual Firehouse Festival on a Saturday in August, with antique fire fighting equipment displays, music, crafts and children’s activities.