‘Address of the Mayor’ (Jan. 7, 1889)

On January 7, 1889, Mayor Charles D. Palmer delivered his inaugural address to the two branches of the City Council (the Common Council and the Board of Aldermen). The Mayor covered many topics in his remarks, from city finances (cash in the treasury as of Dec. 31, 1888: $59,265.27 [a $50,000 increase in 12 months) and the schools to the police and library. Following is an excerpt from the section about the Fire Department and a couple of other passages.—PM

Old City Hall, c. 1890s


“Fire Department

“The apparatus of the department consists of four steam fire engines, seven four-wheeled two-horse hose carriages, two hand hose carriages, two hook-and-ladder trucks, one Babcock aerial ladder truck, one chemical engine, and one patrol wagon. The Babcock aerial truck and one steam fire engine have been added during the year, also the chute and gun required by legislative enactment, twenty-five rubber covers and three thousand feet of hose. The unusually large expenditure of the department is owing to several causes, including the destruction by fire of the city property on Middle Street, the increase of firemen’s pay voted in 1887, and an unpaid December draft of the government of the same year. There are now under process of construction a double engine-house on High Street, a double engine-house on Westford Street, and a central fire station on Palmer Street.

“There have been one hundred and forty-four alarms during the year. The most extensive fires were in the Hamilton mills, the Coburn Shuttle company, the city property on Middle Street, and the Old Colony engine-house. The forces consists of one hundred and thirty-seven men, of whom thirty-six are permanent, and one hundred and one are call men. Five men have been added during the year, of whom three are permanent. The city is so rapidly increasing in territory that we are outgrowing the call system, and I believe that, before many years, the entire force must consist of permanent men.

“In the interests of both economy and utility light one-horse wagons should be substituted for the heavy two-horse hose carriages as soon as it is expedient to make the change. In large cities generally the greater proportion of the expense of the protective department is borne by the insurance companies. In Worcester, for instance, the city appropriates $1,200, the remainder, about $5,300, being paid by the underwriters. It seems to me that a similar custom should prevail in our city.

“Expenditures, $95,023.23; receipts, $2,768.35; net expenditures, $92,254.68.”

. . .

The mayor’s address, included in a volume titled “City Documents of the City of Lowell, Massachusetts, for the year 1888-89 (Lowell: Vox Populi Press), includes four pages devoted to his remarks on the Pauper Department, which consists of “the in-door department and the department of out-door relief,” and covers such topics as the city farm [the poor farm] and its components: “the insane asylum, the truant school, the workhouse, and the almshouse.” The out-door relief dealt with “the care of the wood yard, the burial of paupers, and the city dispensary. . . . Expenditures of the Paper Department, $77,205.75; receipts, $11,482.20; net expenditure, $65,723.55.

. . .

“Gentlemen, . . . In assuming the administration of [our city government], it should be impressed upon our minds that we have been elected, not to prolong partisan agitation, but to advance the common interests of a public corporation. Let us, therefore, endeavor to work together for the welfare of the city, putting aside, as far as possible, personal prejudice and party feeling. Let our single aim be the honest and intelligent management of municipal affairs. Then, however we err in judgment or mistake in method, however our motives be misconstrued or our conduct aspersed, we shall, nevertheless, feel that sustaining inward satisfaction afforded by the consciousness of faithful service.”