a red fire fighting logo with the initials BFM

Boston Fire Museum

Arthur Fiedler conducting an orchestra

About the Collection

Arthur Fiedler (December 17, 1894 - July 10, 1979) was the long-time conductor of the Boston Pops Orchestra, a symphony orchestra that specialized in popular music. With a combination of musicianship and showmanship, he made the Pops the best-known orchestra in the country. Some criticized him for watering down music, particularly when adapting popular songs or edited portions of the classical repertoire, but Fiedler deliberately kept performances informal, light and often self-mocking to attract more listeners.

Fiedler was born in Boston, Massachusetts. His father was an Austrian-born violinist who played in the Boston Symphony Orchestra, and his mother was a pianist and musician. He grew up in Boston, and attended Boston Latin School until his father retired and returned to Austria, where he studied and worked until returning to Boston at the start of World War I. In 1909, his father took him to Berlin to study violin with Willy Hess, and then in 1915 he joined the Boston Symphony Orchestra under Karl Muck as a violinist. He also worked as a pianist, organist, and percussionist.

In 1924 he formed the Boston Sinfonietta, a chamber music orchestra made up of Boston Symphony members, and started a series of free outdoor concerts. He was appointed the eighteenth conductor of the Boston Pops in 1930, a position he held for a half-century. Under Fiedler's direction, the Boston Pops reportedly made more recordings than any other orchestra in the world, with total sales of albums, singles, tapes, and cassettes exceeding $50 million. Fiedler was also associated with the San Francisco Pops Orchestra for 26 summers, and conducted many other orchestras throughout the world.

As a hobby, he was fascinated by the work of firefighters, and would travel in his own vehicle to large fires in and around Boston at any time of the day or night to watch the firefighters at work. He was even made an "Honorary Captain" in the Boston Fire Department and was honored in many other cities where he was made an Honorary Chief and presented with a badge and/or other symbols of the office such as a suitably labeled fire helmet. He was also an avid collector of antique firematic objects. After his death much of this priceless collection was donated to the Boston Fire Museum which proudly displays many of the items as the Arthur Fiedler Collection.

Take a Look Below at a Sample of the Arthur Fiedler Collection.

An exhibit case with fire helmets in it
An exhibit case with fire helmets in it
An exhibit case with fire helmets in it
An exhibit case with fire badges in it