In honor of February being Black History Month, we would like to share the story of Smokestack Hardy with you.
Arthur P. “Smokestack” Hardy was a black man who had a passion for fire history.
Hardy dedicated his life to collecting historical information about black firefighters. This is a monumental task was achieved utilizing nothing more than a manual typewriter, daily correspondences with firefighters all over the world and the U.S. Postal Service. His diligence in replying to, and saving each correspondence became an invaluable resource for people who had an interest in all aspects of fire service and led to the formation of group of like-minded hobbyists.
The old smoking steam engines of this period were the inspiration for his beloved moniker.
Smokestack was an auxiliary firefighter with Baltimore’s Engine 13. His appointment as the fire department’s photographer allowed him to take pictures, recording their events as they unfolded. In addition to compiling and validating evidence, his photographer’s pass allowed him to capture firefighters in their element.
Hardy’s reputation became widespread and he became the subject of media attention. In addition to being featured in locally produced articles, Ebony Magazine featured him in the in their publication on two occasions.
In honor of his contribution to documenting the department’s heroes, the Baltimore Fire Department named the fire station in his neighborhood after Smokestack.
Smokestack’s dedication to collecting and archiving fire information made him America’s most renown black fire buff.