Safety by Design: Engineers and Entrepreneurs Invent Fire Safety in Mexico City, 1860-1910.

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Urban History




This article examines fire-safety innovations (safety matches, extinguishers and hydrants) from professional engineers and lay inventors in Mexico City from 1860–1910. With a drastic increase in the frequency and intensity of fires in the capital, engineers and entrepreneurs saw fire hazards as business opportunities. Global trends that promoted patenting new technologies spurred entrepreneurs and professionals alike to transform the capital into an epicentre of innovation aimed at making the city safer. Their inventions marked the city with visible signs of technological change and reminded residents that fire was a real threat to urban life.