Thursday, October 21, 1920

reprinted from the October 21, 1920 Highland Park Press 

"Fire prevention day is a very good thing, it will remind the people not to be so careless.  Matches should be kept out of reach children and should be kept in an iron box.  There should be no rubbish in basements or attics, as it helps to start fires.  Fire extinguishers should be left in every room in the most convenient place.  Wood and paper should not be kept near fireplaces or furnaces.  People should use safety matches as much as possible and must look out for the afterglow of the strike anywhere matches.  There should be no bonfires unless they are in the open where nothing near can catch afire.  Fire drills should be had often in schools in the winter, ice should be taken off the fire escapes.  If you know where there is a fire go to the nearest phone and tell the fire department.  Gasoline should be kept in a red container with a black label on it.  Keep no oil in a closet because it can get no air and will explode.  Do not leave mops with oil on them in the house.  If you are going to clean anything with gasoline take it outside. 

Be careful in doing anything that is apt to start fire, children especially.   Doing it will not only save property but many lives."

On October 21, 1920, 10-year-old Lyman McBride received a check for $15.00 (193.54 in 2019 dollars, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics) from Pronto Company for the above second prize essay on fire prevention, reprinted in the local paper. 

Pronto, a fire extinguisher manufacturer, received a U.S. patent for a fire suppression compound that same year.  Sales reps for the company likened their using their product to opening a beer bottle.  This promotional contest was judged by those involved directly in firefighting: Peter M. Hoffman, Cook County Coroner; J. C. McDonnell, Fire Prevention Bureau; and H.S. Mott, supervisor of safety at the Chicago Telephone Company. 

Sales and promotions aside, fire prevention was a developing national effort at the time.  President Woodrow Wilson proclaimed the first Fire Prevention Day in 1920.  Fire Prevention Day/Week is the longest-running public safety event in the United States. 

McBride’s prize-winning essay in response to an advertising campaign foreshadowed his future.  In a 1927 High School Play, McBride played a reporter.  He was voted “Most Successful Boy” and “Biggest Drag (boy)" in the Deerfield-Shields High School Class of 1927.   He graduated from Amherst College in 1932 and became advertising manager for the Chicago Tribune.  Later, he worked for advertising agency Fitzpatrick Associates and advertising director at the Philadelphia Inquirer.  He died in Carmel, California at the age of 84 in 1997.