Frank Shaw Family Papers

ca. 1890s-1980. ½ box (9 folders), 43 items. MSS. COLL. #222

NOTE:  The numbers cited in parentheses, e.g. 1:5, refer the researcher to the Series#: Folder# in which that name/topic will be found.


The Frank Shaw Family Papers consist of photographs and printed materials relating to Frank D. Shaw, his brother Paul B. Shaw, and the Greensboro Fire Department. Frank Shaw became Greensboro’s first paid fire chief in 1926, and Paul Shaw became the first paid assistant fire chief in 1929. The brothers helped bring the department into the modern era with more standardized training and more efficient technology. While the collection holds little biographical information about them, the photos provide insight into how the Fire Department evolved over time.

Arrangement: This collection is organized into two series and arranged within series by subject. The series are: Photographs, ca. 1890s-1946; and Printed Material, 1929-1980.

Provenance: This collection was donated by Cheryl Smith, who inherited the materials from her paternal grandfather, Victor Shaw, and his brothers, Frank D. Shaw and Paul B. Shaw. It was received in 2014 and assigned accession number 2014.41.1.

Processing: This collection was organized by Archivist Elise Allison in early 2015. The finding aid was begun by intern Graeme Roberts in June 2015 and completed by Elise Allison in July 2015.


Frank Dick Shaw was born on November 24, 1887, to Ada and Milton Shaw in the Alamance community. He became a driver for Southside Hose Company on January 1, 1906, and was later promoted to captain. In 1926, he became the first paid chief of the Greensboro Fire Department, serving in that position until his death on August 13, 1946. Shaw married Nellie C. Phillips in 1922, and was a member of the North Carolina State Firemen’s Association (NCSFA), the International Association of Fire Chiefs, the Masonic Lodge, and the First Reformed Church.

Paul B. Shaw was born on October 13, 1881, and served as a firefighter from August 1, 1907, until 1946. He became Greensboro’s first paid assistant fire chief in 1929 and was the first recipient of funds from the Greensboro Firemen’s Supplementary Retirement Fund in 1954. Paul Shaw was a member of the NCSFA and the North Carolina Fraternal Insurance Association, and he died on March 28, 1964.

Note: Frank Shaw’s obituary in the Greensboro Daily News states that he was born on October 13, 1882, and was 63 when he died in 1946. However, a photo of his gravestone at shows his date of birth as November 24, 1887. In addition, his birth date in the 1900 U.S. Census and ages in later U.S. Censuses suggest that 1887 is accurate.

Biographical Sources: The sources used to compile this biographical note include the Guilford County Register of Deeds, the U.S. Census,, and the obituaries of Frank Shaw and Paul Shaw in the Greensboro Daily News. Additional information was found in Greensboro Fire Department, 1806-1984, edited by B.C. Cox (Greensboro, NC: The Dept., 1984?) and Greensboro Fire Department, 1926-2001, edited by C.W. Whitworth (Greensboro, NC: Greensboro Fire Department, 2001).


The types of material included in the Frank Shaw Family Papers are photographs and printed material.

The majority of this collection consists of photographs of Frank Shaw (1:4), Paul Shaw (1:5), Greensboro fire stations, and fire equipment. Included are photos of horse-drawn vehicles, particularly from the Southside Hose Company (1:6), and images of the early motorized fire engines (1:1). Also of interest are a photo of the First Reformed Church (1:2) and a postcard of a boarding house run by John and Lula Short (1:3).

The printed material consists largely of newspaper clippings that provide insight into the later years of both Shaw brothers. One article presents anecdotes related by Frank Shaw about his experiences as a fireman from an interview given during his 35th year of service (2:2). Another clipping shows Paul Shaw’s acceptance of the first funds from the Greensboro Firemen’s Supplementary Retirement Fund (2:2).

Few materials will inform researchers about the personal lives of the Shaw brothers. Instead, the strength of the collection is its photographs of the Fire Department and firemen, which provide insight into the history of the department and the leadership of the Shaw brothers.


1. Photographs. 6 folders (30 items). ca. 1890s-1946.

This series contains photos of Frank Shaw during his years as fire chief (1:4), Paul Shaw (1:5), Greensboro fire stations, and fire equipment. Multiple photos show horse-drawn vehicles from the Southside Hose Company (1:6) on Asheboro St., later Martin Luther King Jr. Drive. One photo features firemen standing around engines bedecked in American flags, perhaps for 4th of July festivities (1:1). A panorama shows the Central Fire Station on N. Greene St. with fire engines parked from end to end (1:1). Also of interest is a photo of a group gathered in front of the First Reformed Church on W. Lee Street (1:2). A photo postcard features people in front of a boarding house run by John and Lula Short at 218 E. Washington St. (1:3).

2. Printed Material. 3 folders (13 items). 1929-1980.

The printed material consists primarily of newspaper clippings about the Shaw brothers, as well as Frank Shaw’s successor, Chief Calvin W. “Moon” Wyrick (2:2). One article recounts an interview with Frank Shaw in which he recalls some of his experiences as a fireman (2:2). Others mark when Paul Shaw became the first firefighter to receive funds from the Greensboro Firemen’s Supplementary Retirement Fund, and discuss the possibility of demolishing the Southside Hose Company, or Old Station No. 4, for a new road (2:2). The miscellaneous folder contains a blank voting ballot from 1929, part of a program from a meeting of the NCSFA, and a program from the 1931 centennial of the Brick Reformed Church in Whitsett (2:1).


11Photographs-- Greensboro Fire Department
2-- First Reformed Church
3-- Miscellaneous
4Photographs-- Shaw, Frank D.
5-- Shaw, Paul B.
6-- Southside Hose Company
21Printed Material-- Miscellaneous
2-- Newspaper Clippings -- Fire Department
3-- Newspaper Clippings -- Miscellaneous

Index to the Frank Shaw Family Papers
(ca. 1918-1975)

Note: the numbers following the name/subject entry – e.g. 1:1 – indicate in which Series:Folder that name/topic can be found.

Brick Reformed Church (Whitsett): 2:1

Central Fire Station: 1:1, 1:5, 2:2

First Reformed Church: 1:2

Greensboro Firemen’s Supplementary Retirement Fund: 2:2

Shaw, Frank D.: 1:1, 1:3, 1:4, 2:2
Shaw, Paul B.: 1:1, 1:5, 2:2
Short Boarding House: 1:3
Southside Hose Company: 1:6, 2:2

Wyrick, Calvin W. “Moon”: 2:2