Boston J Key

Boston fire alarm box key courtesy of the Boston Fire Historical Society

Originating from the Boston area in the early days of the fire service, a firefighter would use a key that was in the shape of a “J” to open fire alarm boxes allowing them to tap out a signal to the fire alarm office. This complicated telegraph-style system was the only means of communication from the fire ground in those days. The honorable position of a firefighter receiving this assignment and the shape of the key he carried earned him the title of “Jake”. Over the years the position has evolved but the nickname stuck. Today it’s commonly used across the United States whenever speaking about a firefighter.