Firefighters racing to a blaze in 1905 New York

Their engine is pulled by horses, and the long coats these smoke eaters are wearing look awfully bulky. But that’s how New York’s firefighters did it in 1905, when this postcard image was made.


thegildedageinnewyorkcover-1Amazingly, the city’s fire department had only been professionalized since 1865. Prior to that, various volunteer engine and ladder companies put out New York’s fires, sometimes competing with one another to do so.

Find out more about the rough and tumble early days of the FDNY, when the volunteer companies also served as social and political clubs, in The Gilded Age in New York, 1870-1910.

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2 Responses to “Firefighters racing to a blaze in 1905 New York”

  1. Audrey Burtrum-Stanley Says:

    *I gave birth to a Firefighter – therefore, I hear many stories of historic and unique blazes across the nation.

    1845 was the ‘Great Whale Oil Fire in NYC.’ (This was such an infamous event, several maps and designs about the blaze-area are featured on popular T-shirts today.) This was an especially destructive fire as it consumed about 350 (mostly wooden) structures and took the lives of several firefighters. (Compounding the distress was a huge explosion at a nearby saltpeter company, which may have had gunpowder stored in the same location.) The conflagration caused New York City to establish special building codes prohibiting large wooden buildings, which could easily turn into tinderboxes.

    *I always knew listening to these tales of Firefighter’s Woe would come in handy some day…

  2. ephemeralnewyork Says:

    Thanks for reminding me Audrey–this fire occurred on a frigid December morning, so maybe an ENY post next month will explore it a little more.

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