James Cape, occupying a prominent position in municipal organization as chief of the Racine fire department, was called to his office on the 1st of June. 1900, and his splendid qualifications for the position are seen in the fact that he has been for forty years in fire department service. He was born in New York City, January 3, 1855, a son of James and Elizabeth (Jones) Cape, both of whom were natives of Bristol, England, whence they came to the United States in 1853. The father was a shoemaker by trade and for about two years was employed in that way in New York City, after which he sought the opportunities of the developing middle west, arriving in Racine in 1857, after which he followed his trade here for a time. Still later he engaged in the contracting business, organizing the firm of Cape & Sons, but both he and his wife have now passed away.
James Cape, after attending the public schools of Racine, first started in the Miller shoe factory, where he remained for twenty-five years. During that period he was a member of the call fire department and served as truck-man on the Racine team, on the 1st of July, 1882, he was advanced to the position of captain of hook and ladder company No. 1 and on the 1st of May, 1894, was made assistant chief, in which position he continued for six years or until the 1st of June, 1900, at which time he was chosen chief of the fire department, and resigned his position in the shoe factory. He has thus been connected with the service for forty years and during that period marked changes have been made. When he was called to the position of chief, sixteen years ago, there were only sixteen men in the service, and today there are forty-three. Formerly eight teams were in use and now only two, for nearly the entire department uses motors. The new central station has been built and three new engine houses during the administration of Chief Cape. His record is one of notable efficiency. It is to his credit that he has taken three hose wagons, the chief’s car and a hook and ladder truck, put out a fire a mile distant and returned in twelve minutes! Mr. Cape installed a system to inspect all factories, schools, churches and theatres, all stores and business places every three months, employing eight men to do that work, and since the system has been inaugurated there has been a big reduction in the number of fires. He believes at all times in prevention and preparedness and has so directed, guided and manipulated the work of the fire department. as not only to greatly reduce losses but also to greatly reduce the possibility of fire. He has attended nearly all of the Fire Chiefs conventions, thereby “keeping in touch with the most advanced, modern equipment and latest improvements in fire service. Today ninety-five per cent of the fire alarms come in by telephone.
On the 22nd of June, 1882, Mr. Cape was united in marriage to Miss Jane Eagan, of Waukesha, Wisconsin, by whom he had ten children, as follows: Henry, who is deceased; James, who is in the service of the J. I. Case Threshing Machine Company; Bessie, who is the wife of Paul Cook, of Racine, and has two daughters. Romaine and Frances, and a son, Eugene; Carrie: Winifred, who married Ervin Dunham, of Racine, and has one child, Charles; Lorretta, who is in a training school for nurses; Marie, a teacher by profession; Lulu, who is attending the State Normal School at Milwaukee, and Clarence and Charles, both of whom are high school students. The family attends St. Rose Catholic church and Mr. Cape is a member of the Benevolent Protective Order of Elks. Politically he votes independently, considering the capability of the candidate rather than his party ties. He is one of the well known citizens of Racine today, having for fifty-nine years made his home in this city. Everywhere he is spoken of in terms of high regard and his fellow citizens feel a sense of gratitude toward him for the efficient work he has done in his public connection. His is indeed a splendid record. He is always cool and calm in periods of excitement, so that he is able to direct the efforts of the men to the best possible advantage, losing nut a moment of time or making a false or inadequate move.