About the Exhibit

Duane Pearsall is credited with in the invention of the first battery powered home smoke detector. He was instrumental in changing commercial and residential building codes to require smoke detection devices. Since the mid-1970s, thousands of lives saved can be attributed to the most significant lifesaving innovation of the 20th century, the battery powered smoke detector. This exhibit is about his life, his work in fire protection and his work for small business. He was an "enlightened capitalist," an early adopter of profit-sharing, hiring women and minorities, and teaching his employees their place in the free-enterprise system known as capitalism.

Duane Pearsall with SmokeGard smoke Detectors


Quotes and other specific attributions to Duane Pearsall used in this exhibit are taken from the WPI manuscript MS055 collection and from his memoir titledĀ My Life Unfolded, published by the Pearsall Family.

Photos and text from the Duane D. Pearsall Papers, MS055, courtesy of George C. Gordon Library, Worcester Polytechnic Institute.

Videos of Statitrol commercial smoke detectors and The Story of VPB-128, courtesy of Wendy Wolfe.

Photos of Gerald Ford's visit to the Rotary Club Luncheon April 6, 1978 courtesy of Michael Gamer, photographer.

The digitized manuscript collection is available hereĀ 

A collection guide is available here

About the Exhibit