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Delta Psi: 1908

Delta Psi: 1908

New Haven, Conn., circa 1908. "Delta Psi fraternity house, Yale University." Note the Fire Alarm Telegraph Station at right. 8x10 glass negative. View full size.


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A Master Box

I worked on a Gamewell municipal alarm system back in the 1980s. That system is now just history and I am retired and, thankfully, not yet just history.

Institutions frequently had boxes inside buildings that controlled a remote but nearby "Master" box, which I am guessing is what we have here. Inside the Master box was a code-wheel, a small wheel with teeth that interrupted a direct current circuit connected to a central alarm office with a pattern corresponding to the Master's number, in this case, 28.

The code wheel was turned by a spring-driven mechanism, used because a spring did not need electrical power to run. The mechanism was held in a locked position by a pin. When a user activated a box inside the building, a local direct-current circuit activated a relay inside the Master box that pulled the pin from the locking position, permitting the code-wheel to turn and tap out its number on the central alarm office circuit.

The Master typically transmitted its code three times, and then the locking pin was pushed back into the mechanism. When firefighters had finished their job they'd unlock the Master Box and rewind the spring to prepare it for its next use.

Anti-False Alarm Device?

There were at least two patented systems to discourage false alarms via telegraph boxes.
The earlier system required the person turning in the alarm to reach up through a hole in the bottom of the box to reach the trigger. When triggered, the box would handcuff you so that you could not run away before the FD arrived.
This early system was soon found to discourage people from turning in real alarms. Who would want to be handcuffed to a pole in front of a burning building?
The later system dispensed a single, portable handcuff onto the citizen's wrist - s/he could flee danger, but had to report to the F.D. to get the cuff unlocked from his/her wrist.
Perhaps some Shorpy Sleuth can research whether either of these concepts was deployed in New Haven. If not, I can't imagine how frustrating it would be to have to hunt down a key while my home burned!

Bit of a remodel, since.

The gate is still useful, though.

[More than a remodel; the building stood between 1894-1913; the gate was saved and reused. -tterrace]

Single-duct conduit

I had a feeling the piled tubes were for underground conduit and suspect that new power wires were about to be strung to provide power to the buildings were almost ready to underground in those vitreous clay pipe sections. The catalog page here is from a 1926 Western Electric Supply Catalog and shows one example that matches the conduit in the Shorpy photograph.

Pipes Perhaps

What are those short tubular objects stacked up along the street in three places?

[Portents of an impending water main or sewer line project perhaps? -tterrace]

Frat House Pranks

To minimize the temptation to trigger a false alarm they made it difficult to open the box. Hopefully those two posted locations are available 24/7 to get the key.


Fire Alarm Telegraph Station 28.

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