Memoirs of Boston's Great Fire of 1872

 Edward S. Savage

Boston Chief of Police

Attribution: Notes written by Savage related to the Great Fire quoted from:

Police Recollections or Boston by Daylight and Gaslight, by Edward H. Savage

John P. Dale & Company, 1873.



Edward H. Savage served as Chief of Police for Boston during William Gaston’s tenure as Boston’s Mayor, from 1871-1872, and in 1873, while Henry Lillie Pierce was Mayor.  According to the Savage account, he Boston Police Force numbered 468 in January of 1872.  It is interesting that Savage’s account of the fire was so brief, and without dramatic detail.  Since this volume was published in 1873 with the last “notes” being entries for July 4 (1873).  The controversial issues surrounding the Boston Fire were still hot only eight months after the conflagration.  It is possible that comment on these controversies by Savage was considered imprudent at the time the book was published.


Savage’s Published Notes:


October 14 (1871). Deputy Chief Quinn went to Chicago to carry contributions from the Boston Police to the Chicago Police who suffered by the great fire.


October 26 (1872). The horse disease commenced in Boston, making it necessary to propel fire engines, horse cars, and other vehicles through the streets with human muscle.


November 9 (1872). At 7:15 P.M. the Great Fire broke out at the corner of Summer and Kingston Streets, which swept off nearly all the buildings between Summer, Washington, Milk and Broad Streets, destroying nearly $100,000,000 of property and many lives.  Firemen were called from other cities; buildings were blown up to stop the progress of the flames; the military were called out for a Police relief; the gas was shut off, leaving the city in darkness two nights; and Boston presented a scene never to be forgotten.


November 10 (1872). Post Office moved to Faneuil Hall.



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