I’m not so sure that the thousands of horses tasked to pull wagons day after day in New York’s pre-auto era were treated very well.
But for several years in the early 1900s, they were treated to their own parade.
The Work Horse Parade, sponsored by the ASPCA, was meant to “induce the owners and drivers of work horses, and the public generally, to take more interest in their welfare,” states a New York Times article on the first-ever parade, dated May 19, 1907.
About 1,200 horses were expected to participate, and “all of the express companies, many coal companies, confectionery houses, and co. will send entries,” reported the Times.
Equines that worked for the FDNY, police force, and other city workers marched too.
So did hundreds of truck horses, who spent their days making deliveries for “wholesale grocers, breweries, butchers, milk companies, laundries, and, in fact, almost every branch of business.”
The parade started at Washington Square, with horses and drivers going up Fifth Avenue to Worth Square at 23rd Street.
There, judges awarded various prizes. This Borden’s milk truck team in the above photo won the “obstacle test” in 1908.
Looks like the parade ran for eight years; I can’t find a reference to it after 1914, when it expanded to include dogs, ponies, and even two mules.
After 1914, automobiles began eclipsing horsepower—which had served New York well for close to three centuries.
[Photos: Bain Archive, Library of Congress]