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The first mention of an Oakland Alarm System was found in early entries in June 1871. In 1873 the City purchased from Capt F.B. Tarbett: 5 Morse Registers, 5 Relays, 2 miles of Telegraph wire and several small cups of gravity batteries for $800. This appeared to be the commencement of the lines construction started by G.H. Carleston. These items connected Oakland's 5 fire companies that were in existence at this time and may have been used as Fire House dispatch. In 1873 expenditures for the Fire Alarm Telegraph system is noted with expenditures in 1874 of $242.38 and in 1875 or $1230.30. It appears that the system was under construction in 1874 and 1875 and was operational in 1876 with the purchase of 11 petent non-interferin automatic fire alarm boxes were purchased for $250.00 each from the Electrical Construction Company. In 1877, 10 boxes were purchased at $250.00 each and from 1877-1884, 18 additional boxes were purchased, all from from California Electric Works at a price range of $150.00 - $225.00 each. It is noted that Electrical Construction company, Electro-depositing work and California Electric works were merged into the same company and a lot of the designs remained the same. It is also possible that some boxes were purchased in 1872 as a one box was noted in 1932 as having 1872 cast on it. The first purchase of a Gamewell box was in 1891 at a cost of $200.
Oakland's First Boxes
2 Seventh between Wood and Willow
3 Seventh and Adeline
4 Seventh and Market
5 Seventh and Washington
6 Tweflth and Broadway
7 Twelth and Oak
8 Sith and East Twelvth
9 First and Washington
12 Fifth and Alice
13 Market and Fourteenth
14 San Pablo and Sycamore
15 Twelfth and East Twelfth
16 Telegraph and Sycamore
It should be noted that 38 of the original style boxes were still in service in 1938 and at least 1 was still in service when removed in 1978.
in 1903 there were 100 boxes, 1909 there were 157 locked boxes in service and in 1910 the creation of the Oakland boxes and the break glass key entry were introduced with a 1914 report showing 279 boxes in service.
1910 style City of Oakland Fire Alarm Box
Oakland Fire Alarm System after the 1906 Earthquake
The 1906 Earthquake change the San Francisco Bay Area in a variety of different ways. While Oakland had damage to the City's Fire and police systems it had far less damage than San Francisco. The Governor at that time was a resident of Oakland, Governor Pardee. Most of the recovery efforts were directed from Oakland and with such, Oakland benifitted a great deal in various improvement to its systems. Starting soon after the initial clean-up, work and design of a new Fire Dispatch center and inprovements in the City's Fire Alarm system . Starting in 1907 new cables, boxes and iron poles were designed and installed. Created during this period was the Oakland Electrical Department Electro-Mechanical Instrument Shop. This highly developed shop coordinated the casting of the new "Harp" Combination Fire Alarm Pedestals and the new Diamond top Fire Alarm Doors. Pole and Box installation began in 1910 and were tied into the new Fire Dispatch building in 1911. As Oakland grew, so did the system and by 1938, the City had 984 Fire Boxes, 136 Combination Fire Alarm Pedestals and 120 Pipe type Alarm pedistals
California Electric Works box
The fire bell would tap as far as 9. there is no 1, 10 or 11. For 12 the bell gave one tap, then a pause and then 2 taps. For 13, 1 tap, then a pause and so on up to 16.
Oakland "harp" Pedistal.