Guide to the Jack Robrecht Collection of Firefighting Photographs

Administrative Information

Repository Information

Archives Center, National Museum of American History, 2012

P.O. Box 37012
Suite 1100, MRC 601
Washington, D.C., 20013-7012
Phone: 202-633-3270

Conditions Governing Access note

The collection is open for research.

Conditions Governing Use note

Collection items available for reproduction, but the Archives Center makes no guarantees concerning copyright restrictions. Other intellectual property rights may apply. Archives Center cost-recovery and use fees may apply when requesting reproductions.

Custodial History note

Transferred from the Division of Home and Community Life to the Archives Center in 2011.

Immediate Source of Acquisition note

The collection was donated by CIGNA through Roxanne Korostowski, Director, Relocation Services on August 19, 2005.

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Summary Information

Archives Center, National Museum of American History
Creator - (collector).
Robrecht, Jack
Jack Robrecht Collection of Firefighting Photographs
Date [inclusive]
1.5 Cubic feet, 6 boxes, 1 oversized folder
Language of Materials note
Some materials in Spanish.

Preferred Citation note

Jack Robrecht Collection of Firefighting Photographs, 1852-1983, Archives Center, National Museum of American History.

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Biographical/Historical note

Jack Robrecht (1916?-1993) was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. He graduated from St. Joseph's Prep and attended the University of Pennsylvania. Robrecht worked for thirty-one years at the chemical testing laboratory of Atlantic Refinery. He retired in 1978. Robrecht always wanted to be a firefighter, but missed qualifying due to the age limit. Undeterred, Robrecht spent much of his life from 1941-1993 as a volunteer historian for the Philadelphia Fire Department. He was also a collector, author, and photographer of fire-related materials.

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Scope and Contents note

The collection contains primarily photographs and postcards relating to firefighting. Many of the photographs are of firefighting vehicles and apparatus, both horse-drawn and gasoline-powered. The cities of Philadelphia and Baltimore are especially well documented, though other cities are represented, including Hamilton, Ohio; Camden, New Jersey; Dallas, Texas; Baltimore, Maryland; Portland, Maine; New Orleans, Louisiana; Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania; Newburyport, Massachusetts; and Flemington, New Jersey.

Series 1, Photographs, consists primarily of black-and-white and color, both original and copy prints, illustrations, and postcards depicting images of fire engines, firefighters, fireboats, fire stations, and firemen and fire equipment in parades. The photographs are arranged in numerical order (for example, JR-2) as assigned by Jack Robrecht, who assembled the materials. The other number system included the designation "V 408." This alpha-numeric number was applied by the Cigna Museum which held the materials prior to their donation to the National Museum of American History. Many of the images are heavily annotated by Robrecht, providing specific details about a fire engine, geographic location, and date. There are some membership cards, envelopes, and a Christmas card depicting images of fire equipment. Two inventories for the photographs are available. The inventories provide an object/photograph number, artist/photographer, title/caption, genre/classification, date and dimensions.

Series 2, Research Files, 1852-1983, consists almost exclusively of handwritten and typescript photocopies of fire-related documentation assembled by Robrecht. Included are sheet music, lists of statistics for fire alarms, inventories of equipment in parades, newspaper clippings, and an ink sketch of a fire ladder.

Series 3, Publications, [1859?]-1975, consists of original and photocopies of various fire-related publications. The only non fire-related publication is  The Grace Log, a publication of Grace Line.

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Arrangement note

The collection is divided into three series.

Series 1, Photographs, 1880-1972

Series 2, Research Files, 1852-1983

Series 3, Publications, [1859?]-1975

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Related Materials

Related Archival Materials note

Materials at the Archives Center, National Musuem of American History

Warshaw Collection of Business Americana, Fires and firefighting (series), circa 1821-1955. (AC0060)

Warshaw Collection of Business Americana, Fires and firefighting: stereographs, ca. 1875-1888. (AC0060)

Warshaw Collection of Business Americana, Inventions: stereographs, 1880s. (AC0060)

Underwood & Underwood Glass Stereograph Collection, [Fire-fighters working water pump: Active no. 1810. photonegative] 1926. (AC0143)

Underwood & Underwood Glass Stereograph Collection, [Fire fighters in action.] 2031 photonegative. (AC0143)

Frank Seymour Firefighting Ephemera Collection (AC1232)

Materials at the Division of Home and Community Life, National Museum of American History

The Division of Home and Community Life holds fire-related artifacts. See Accession numbers 2005.0233; 2005.0279; 2006.0247; 2007.0160; and 2007.0174.

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Controlled Access Headings


  • Photographs--Black-and-white photoprints--1900-1950
  • Photographs--Black-and-white photoprints--1950-2000
  • Postcards


  • Fire departments--Maryland
  • Fire departments--Pennsylvania
  • Fire engines
  • Fire extinction
  • Fire stations
  • Firefighters

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Physical Characteristics and Technical Requirements note

Gloves must be worn when handling unprotected photographs, negatives, and slides.

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Wallace, Andy. "John Robrecht, 76, Friend to Firefighters." (July 29, 1993), (accessed on July 5, 2012).

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Collection Inventory

 Series 1, Photographs, 1880-1972


JR 1 to JR 120


JR 121 to JR 234


JR 235 to JR 349


JR 352 to JR 512




Panoramic views showing devastated area of Atlanta's great fire, 1917 May 21

  Map-case Drawer Folder
Text   3 22 1

Inventory for photographs, undated

  Box Folder
Text   6 1

 Series 2, Research Files, 1852-1983

Baltimore City Fire Department (facts), undated

Cartoons, undated

  Box Folder
Text   6 3

Cobleskill Fire Department (Cobleskill Fire Department), 1983 March

  Box Folder
Text   6 4

Fire alarms list (for Baltimore and Philadelphia), 1904, 1959, 1969, 1985

  Box Folder
Text   6 5

Fire department statistic (from Insurance Monitor), 1872

  Box Folder
Text   6 6

Fireman's Parade, Philadelphia (equipment in parade), 1852

  Box Folder
Text   6 7

New England States Veterans Fireman's League (steamer muster lists), 1983

  Box Folder
Text   6 8

Pennsylvania Railroad Station fire, 1896

  Box Folder
Text   6 9

Philadelphia Volunteer Fire Department (equipment inventory), 1857, 1859

  Box Folder
Text   6 10

Sheet music, undated

  Box Folder
Text   6 11

Sketch (ink) of fire ladder, undated

  Box Folder
Text   6 12

Newspaper clippings, 1873

  Box Folder
Text   6 13

Miscellaneous, 1973 and undated

  Box Folder
Text   6 14

 Series 3, Publications, 1859-1975

Antique Fire Apparatus Locator (Union Historical Fire Society, Philadelphia), [1975?]

  Box Folder
Text   6 15

The Grace Log, 1950 May-June

  Box Folder
Text   6 16

Instructions to Engineers of La France Steam and Fire Engines, undated

  Box Folder
Text   6 17

Officers Call (Philadelphia Officers Association), 1963 January

  Box Folder
Text   6 18

Origins and Introduction of Steam Fire Engines, [1859?]

  Box Folder
Text   6 19

The Pennsylvania Fireman, 1982 November

  Box Folder
Text   6 20

P.F.D. News (Philadelphia Fire Department), [1963?]

  Box Folder
Text   6 21