111 Years of History
After 24 years away, NFPA looks forward to a return to the Windy City.
NFPA Journal®, May/June 2009
For the first time in 24 years, NFPA is heading to Chicago for its annual conference and exhibit. The Association first met in Chicago in June 1898 and went on to hold 22 more meetings there over the years, including the 62nd convention in 1958. That year, there were seven general sessions, and the registration fee was $10 to "help defray the expenses incidental to the meeting." The only attendees not required to pay the fee were guest speakers, students, firefighters in uniform, and "ladies accompanying members." The most recent annual meeting in Chicago was held in 1985.
The 1898 meeting, which took place two years after NFPA was founded, was just the second in NFPA history, the first having been held the year before in New York City. By 1898, NFPA had 22 active members, all of which were organizations such as the Factory Insurance Association and the New York Board of Underwriters. There were also seven associate members, all individuals. The Association’s annual income of $230 came solely from member dues, which were $10 a year. Seven special committees, consisting of three or four members each, produced papers and reports, including Standard on Thermo Electric Fire Alarms, the first of what became the NFPA 72 series of fire system signaling standards.
In his address to the 50 or so attendees at the 1898 event, NFPA’s President Uberto C. Crosby discussed a major structural fire protection problem of the day, as noted by another past NFPA president, Percy Bugbee, in his book Men Against Fire.
"If one defect alone—open communications between floors in mercantile and manufacturing buildings—could be eliminated," he said, "fire loss would be greatly reduced…Can we not in some practical manner draw the attention of property owner, architect, and builder to better practices?"
One hundred and eleven years later, NFPA is still drawing the attention of property owners, architects, and builders to better practices through its 272 codes and standards, produced by more than 250 technical committees made up of hundreds of the Association’s 81,000+ members.
Join us in Chicago June 8–11 for this year’s annual meeting, now called the NFPA Conference & Expo®. The Association and the meeting are a lot bigger than they were in 1898, but our mission and commitment remain the same.