Century-old film shows Maine firefighters using horses, carriages and ‘self propellers’ to save lives

Oh, technology.

There was a time when moving pictures were quite rare, and a time even much more recently when old long-lost film footage — once rediscovered in a basement or attic somewhere — was hard to share with anyone.

Now there are ways to digitize that old footage and share it widely on the Internet.

If you have a few minutes, check out this fascinating footage showing how Portland firefighters went about their business back in the early 1900s:

A helpful narration has since been added to the footage to help identify the people and locations, as well as explain the equipment these urban firefighters were using more than a century ago, including the novelty of Portland’s “one and only horseless steam fire engine” — a so-called “self propeller” — acquired in 1903.

The narrator points out that the identities of whoever originally produced the silent movie have been lost to history.

Portland has quite a history of conflagrations, as many people know, with four famous blazes marking the city’s past and leading to its inclusion of the mythical phoenix on its official seal, as well as the adoption of the motto “Resurgam,” meaning “I shall rise again.”

The most famous of those fires was the Great Fire of 1866, which at the time was the most devastating blaze in American history, burning 1,800 buildings to the ground and motivating famed poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow to compare Portland to Pompeii.