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Indy Library Adds Local Firefighting Photos to Digital Collection

March 6, 2012

A collection of over 900 photographs documenting firefighting in Indianapolis from 1874 to 1939 has been added to The Indianapolis Public Library's online digital library.


The new images come from the photo collection of early 20th century Indianapolis firefighter Harold Brown Adkinson which resides at the Indiana State Library. The Adkinson photos have been incorporated into the Library's digital library of over 2,100 historic firefighting images that include local African-American firefighters and scenes from such tragic events as the Bowen-Merrill fire of 1890, the Coliseum explosion in 1963, and the Grant building fire in 1973.

Adkinson died in 1944 from injuries received in an accident while on routine test run aboard Engine #20. He amassed a sizeable collection of photos and other documents relating to the Indianapolis Fire Department. Images include trucks and other vehicles, fire stations, group photos, fire scenes and daily life. Most of the photos include information handwritten by Adkinson, which has also been digitized for public viewing, listing the names of people and places.

Images are provided through a partnership with the Indiana State Library and the IUPUI University Library, with support from the Institute of Museum and Library Sciences under provisions of the Library Services and Technology Act, administered by the Indiana State Library.

The Adkinson photos can be found by searching the Digital Library site from the Library's homepage at and selecting the Indianapolis Museum Firefighters Collection. In addition to the Firefighters Collection, the Library's digital offerings include artifacts from The Children's Museum of Indianapolis, images from the historic English's Opera House, the World War I poster collection, the May Wright Sewall Papers, yearbooks from Shortridge High School, the Indianapolis Postcard Collection, images of the historic Free Soil Banner newspaper, the Irvington Oral History collection, and audio recordings of poet James Whitcomb Riley.