How to get the word out

Consider the question of fire in the early days of Atlanta. How would anybody who wasn’t immediately affected by the fire know that there actually was a fire? I’m not talking about the “big” fire that resulted from Sherman’s occupation but the everyday, commonplace fires that were all too frequent in a city built largely of wood, a city where cooking and heating were done with fire. A city where passing trains frequently generated sparks that often landed on the rooftops of buildings.

Fire fighting in Atlanta initially was done by volunteers. As you can imagine, it was critical when a fire broke out that the volunteers get the word as soon as possible. The city’s existence depended on their efficiency, but the lack of an early warning system was a huge impediment to efficient fire fighting.

The issue became clear when in 1867 Fire Company Number 1 built a new engine house on Broad Street. The building was a tall structure and capped with a belfry, a great place for a watchman to look out over the city. It also was obviously a great place for a warning bell, which Atlanta did not have.

To the rescue came the women of Atlanta who staged a week-long fair in order to raise money to commission a bell. They were successful and the bell was delivered in July of 1867. How the bell got its name seemed interesting enough to us to make it this week’s Stories of Atlanta.

Lance Russell is an Atlanta-based filmmaker and media communicator who, for over three decades, has been entrusted by clients to tell their stories. A seasoned producer with an innate ability to cut to the heart of the matter, Lance’s instincts are tailor-made for today’s “media bite” culture. Brief, poignant and always entertaining, Lance’s current passion is bringing Atlanta’s colorful and inspiring past to life with his “rest of the story” style video series, Stories of Atlanta. “History’s best communicators,” says Lance, “have always been storytellers. It’s in our DNA. ‘Once upon a time’ is how we got to where we are now.”

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