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The city of Bradford, Pennsylvania is situated in McKean County. It was settled in 1823 and chartered as a city in 1879. During the Pennsylvania oil rush, which ran from 1859 to the 1870s, it became a boom town. In 1876, one of the first monorails in the country was built by the Bradford & Foster Railway. On the morning of January 24, 1895, the weather was so cold that one of the men at the Sheehan boarding house on Mechanic Street turned up the gas jet in order to get a bit warmer. Shortly thereafter, a blizzard hit the area, making the fire difficult to fight. The storm made fighting the fire difficult, to say the least, and according to the newspapers of the day, some firemen were wearing clothing and hats which were encased in an inch of ice. Fire engulfed the boarding house and seven other wooden buildings, despite every fire company in the city being there to fight the blaze. Many of the men suffered frostbite, and thousands of people stood and watched the blaze and the valiant fight. The townspeople gave the men hot coffee, gloves, and caps and the local hotels opened their rooms up to firemen as well as fire victims. Bradford is also known for one of its residents, J.M. Aldrich, who became infamous with his claims to have invented a perpetual motion machine, spent four months in prison because of the hoax, which was exposed in the July 1899 issue of Scientific American.

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