PhILS banner
Agency level banner

Electrical Bureau;
Police & Fire Alarm Telegraph

[Record group 73]
Agency Function
This functions of this agency have been transferred to the Department of Public Property.

The Electrical Bureau maintained the signaling and communicating systems of the police and fire bureaus; supervised the telephone and electric-elevator service in city buildings and the purchase by the city of other electric service; licensed and supervised the erection of privately owned poles and wires; supervised the laying and maintenance of all electrical conductors and conduits; and supervised electric street lighting.

Agency History
First organized by an Ordinance of March 17, 1856 as the Police and Fire Alarm Telegraph, this unit was administered by a Council-selected Superintendent working under the direction of the Mayor and the Chief Engineer of the Fire Department, with the care and management of the police and fire-alarm telegraph system. Eventually added to its duties were the regulation of the erection of all telegraph lines within the City and the collection of rentals from private telegraph companies using City poles. In 1868, under an ordinance approved on 9 December, the office was retitled a Department, its force augmented by transfers of men from the Police Department, and greater authority over it was given to the Mayor's office. In 1884, in pursuance of an ordinance approved on 11 July of that year, it was officially entitled the Electrical Bureau. In 1887, in pursuance of the Bullitt Bill, the Bureau was transferred to the control of the Department of Public Safety. In 1901 and 1908 the Bureau's authority was extended to "all matters of an electrical nature" connected with City structures and its approval required for all City contracts involving electrical service or construction. An Act of 1933 transferred the Bureau's jurisdiction over electric street lamps to the Bureau of Lighting and Gas of the Department of Public Works. The Electrical Bureau was abolished, along with the Department of Public Safety, by the Philadelphia Home Rule Charter adopted in 1951 and its functions transferred to the several communications and building services divisions of the then-established Department of Public Property.

Archival Records
73.1 Electrical Bureau, Police and Fire Alarm Telegraph. Annual Reports (1884, 1886, 1888-1908, 1910-1912, 1914-1919, 1948)

73.2 Letter Book (1916-1919; missing: February-July, 1917)

73.3 Record of Fire Alarms (1856-1868)

73.4 Electric Street Light Inspections (1897)

73.5 Returns of Attachments to City Poles (1881-1887)

73.6 Record Book, Sites of Private Electrical Companies' Installations (1886-1900; missing: 1894-1896)

73.7 "Diary" (1882)

73.8 Contracts (1888-1897)

73.9 Receipts for Electrical Equipment (1896-1897)

73.10 Scrapbook (1850-1858)

73.11 Photographs and Drawings of Street Lighting Equipment (March 1926)

73.12 Official Municipal Telephone Directory (ca. 1951)

73.13 Drawings and Plans (27 April 1923 - 20 June 1924)

Click on a folder or file to return to that level...
PhILS Home
City Agencies
Current Agency Information Sheet. (Text-only version of this page)

Send your comments to
Last updated on November 8, 2000