Feb. 9, 1899: Amphibious assault on a factory fire

  • Blog Post by: Ben Welter
  • January 6, 2014 - 10:09 AM
A fire broke out in the feather room of a Minneapolis bedding factory during one of the coldest weeks in the city's history. Firefighters raced to the scene, unrolled their hoses and turned on the water. The Minneapolis Tribune explained what happened next.

[This page one story had no headline]

This three-column photo "WAS TAKEN BY THE TRIBUNE STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER FROM FROGS WHICH MR. DUFFY FOUND," according to the original all-caps caption.

It is not every city the size of Minneapolis that can gather together its frog population in mid-winter at the alarm of fire and hustle them through its water mains to a fire in front of a water pressure of 80 pounds to the square inch. Of course it is not every day that a fire occurs in a bedding factory. The prospect of making a temporary winter home among several thousand dollars[’] worth of feathers might have been the inducement, but such is not believed to be the case.


At the fire of the Minneapolis Bedding company Tuesday a bushel of frogs passed though the mains, choked up the fire apparatus, necessitating the stopping of the engine until they were removed. In their hurried call to duty a number of these frogs were forced out of the automatic sprinklers, dropping upon the floor.


There is but a half-inch hole in the sprinklers, and the frogs in almost every instance were badly mangled after this tight squeeze. The picture above shows four of the frogs just as they were taken from the automatic sprinklers by J. B. Duffy, agent of the latter machines.


“I thought I would bring the documentary evidence,” said Mr. Duffy to The Tribune, “else people might be led to say that I had seen snakes, not frogs.”


Lying near the hydrant in front of the damaged bedding factory [at what is now 5th Avenue SE. and E. Hennepin] are at least two pecks of these frogs of all sizes and ages. On the floor is another lot of these little hoppers, and stuck in the sprinklers are many others.


The attention of the council committee on waterworks will be called to this matter, and a demand made for a speedy remedy of the existing evil. From the appearance of these little reptile in such numbers it would seem that there is very little effectiveness to the screen on the reservoir, placed there to catch sediment. A filtering process is badly needed.


During the excitement of fighting the fire these frogs were thought by the firemen and others to be nothing but a collection of green grass or seaweed. Closer investigation proved their identity. “It is nauseating to think about,” said Mr. Duffy, “but the public is invited to see for itself by a visit to the factory and the hydrant where the frogs now lie. The evidence is there, and the firemen will vouch for the truth of it.”


A committee of citizens will wait upon the waterworks committee at once and ask that the matter be looked into by the supervisor’s department.


The other day three frogs were removed from the water pipes at the public library.

© 2018 Star Tribune