In 1878, a blow was struck for efficiency, fun, and iconography. That's a rare combination, so let's take a look at the team that invented the fireman's pole. Warning: Absolutely no "fireman's pole" jokes will be tolerated in the comments. Well, maybe a few.
I love me some low-tech tech, and I especially love finding out that we still know who invented it. The pole that the firefighters slide down, the part of the firehouse that seems almost as iconic as the red engine, has a definite inventor. Actually, it has a group of inventors. Engine 21 was built three stories high. The ground floor housed the equipment. The second floor housed the firefighters. The third floor was the hayloft for the horses that pulled the carts. George Reid was in the loft, unloading the hay. The hay was kept secured to the wagon with a long pole, that, when not in use, was stored vertically near the hayloft.
When the alarm blasted, George didn't have time to run downstairs, so he grabbed the pole and slid. He was down in a trice. The idea was so obviously efficient that the captain, David Kenyon, cut a hole in the upper floor so that more people could do the exact same thing. Then the entire crew of Engine 21 bought the wood, sculpted and waxed the pole, and set it into the floor. The company gained such a reputation for efficiency, that all of Chicago followed suit - and soon that one invention went international.
Again - no pole jokes in the comments. I am not above scolding you.