Celebrating 120 Years of Fire Safety

UL Celebrates More Than 120 Years of Fire Safety Testing

In 1894 William Henry Merrill, an electrical engineer, opened Underwriter’s Electrical Bureau, the Electrical Bureau of the National Board of Fire Underwriters, the predecessor of the company now known as UL. UL’s first office was located above the Fire Insurance Patrol Building on Chicago’s Monroe Street.

As shown by the images in the photo gallery below, since its inception, UL has employed exacting scientific processes and the highest ethical principles to develop cutting edge fire safety testing methodologies.  

Today our mission remains the same. UL continues to provide the latest fire research and testing capabilities to the building products industry. With unmatched experience and insight, we help develop many of the industry test standards that are referenced in building codes worldwide.


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This campaign is part of an educational series of articles featuring different topics that draw on UL’s history. Read the articles listed below for insight on how UL has helped to keep the environments in which we live and work in safe for the last 120 years.

Photo Gallery

Fire Safety Thru The Years (1894 to Present)

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UL was founded by electrical engineer William Henry Merrill in 1894. The first office was located above the Fire Insurance Patrol Building on Monroe Street in Chicago, Illinois.


Sprinkler testing (ca. 1910s).


Examining tin clad fire doors (1923).

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Testing building materials for fire hazards (1944).


Testing fire extinguishers (ca. 1940s).


Conducting a flame spread test (1964).


UL conducts fire tests on cable to help protect vital communications and electrical services (1989).


Live burn fire experiments were conducted on Governors Island, NY, in cooperation with the FDNY and NIST (2012).


UL evaluates, tests, and certifies self-balancing scooters, also known as hoverboards (2016).