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Kalamazoo Fire Department Photograph

Identifier: RH-A-3664

Scope and Contents

The photograph of a tillerman of the Kalamazoo Fire Department was taken by photographer M. Reidsema of Kalamazoo, Michigan between the dates of 1891-1895. The address on the front of the photograph, 101 West Main St., indicates where the photographer had his studio as well as the time period the photograph had been taken; 1891-1895. John Reidsema was a photographer in Kalamazoo from 1889-1911. In this picture, a young man wears a cap with the word “TILLERMAN” followed by “KFD” (Kalamazoo Fire Department), along with a nice dress coat.

There are two theories of the identity of the man as the picture is not clear who the person is. The Kalamazoo Gazette stated on February 5, 1892 that “… Steven Barnes, a part pay fireman, succeeds Henry Popendick who resigned as Tillerman of hook and ladder truck No. 1.” Simply stated, a tillerman is a member of the fire department who steers the rear wheel of a fire truck. Looking at both the 1880 and 1900 Federal Census in Kalamazoo, neither man (Barnes nor Popendick) are listed as a member of the Kalamazoo Fire Department or as a tillerman.

Henry Popendick is listed as “emp. Fire dept. 107 Burr Oak” in the 1891 Kalamazoo City Directory and as “machinist 1121 Forbes” in the 1893 City Directory. There is no information for an 1892 Kalamazoo City Directory.

Steven C. Barnes is listed as “teamster bds. 1510 East Ave.” in the 1891 Kalamazoo City Directory and as “machinist 204 E. Kal. Ave” in the 1893 Kalamazoo City Directory.

Since Barnes is not listed as a tillerman in 1893 to 1895, I cannot positively determine that either of these men are the man in the photograph. It may be any tillerman from the years 1891-1895.

John M. Reidsema (1864-1913) had his photography business in Kalamazoo, Michigan from at least 1889-1905. He died in Detroit and was listed as retired. His addresses in Kalamazoo are as follows;

1889: 103 E. Main 1895: 101 W. Main 1899-1905: 119 S. Burdick


  • Creation: Majority of material found within 1891-1895



1 items ; 4" x 6"

Language of Materials


Physical Description

There is one 4” x 6” cabinet card photograph. The photograph has little to no wear or fading with the words printed “Reidsema” and “101 West Main St, Kazoo” underneath the photograph of the young man.


The photograph is of a male member of the Kalamazoo Fire Department c. 1891-1895, taken by photographer John Reidsema of Kalamazoo, Michigan.

Kalamazoo Fire Department Photograph Finding Aid
Samantha Beland
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
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Script of description
Code for undetermined script
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Repository Details

Part of the Western Michigan University Archives & Regional History Collections Repository

Charles C. and Lynn L. Zhang Legacy Collections Center
1650 Oakland Drive
Kalamazoo MI 49008-5307 US
(269) 387-8490