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The Last Fire Horses in Manhattan

Last of the Manhattan's Famous Fire Horses Pass

This photograph, taken on August 25th, 1920, was published in the Sun and New York Herald Rotrogravure Section on Sunday September 5, 1920 (see below).  Photo: George F. Mand Library.

Motorization of the Fire Department began in 1911, with the acquisition of one motor-driven steam pumping engine, one gasoline motor and pumping engine, one motor propelled water tower, eight high-pressure hose wagons, and more than thirty other vehicles, mostly cars and trucks.[1]   In August the Fire Department opened an Automobile Training School, offering twenty days of mechanical instruction and five days driving instruction followed by a test,[2]  and for the first time and only time, the cover of the Annual Report carried a picture, of two fire horses. 

At the close of 1919, 66% percent of the apparatus in service was motorized, with 159 motor engines, and 76 horse drawn carriages.   As motorized engines were introduced, the newspapers carried stories celebrating the fire horses, with many accounts of retired horses recognizing the fire alarm bells and racing to fires pulling their milk carts behind them.

On August 25, 1920, Engine Company No. 47 was the last company in Manhattan to be motorized.  The Fire Commissioner and Department chiefs Kenlon and Murphy were there to pose with the full company.  None of the men in the pictures are named, but the Tribune supplied the names of the horses: Mutt, Jeff, Doc, Carl, and Carnot. 

[1] New York Fire Department, Annual Report, 1911. p. 3.

[2] "Forsake Fire Horses: Drivers Will Be Taught to Operate Auto Engines." New York Tribune August 25, 1911.  p. 7.


The Last Fire Horses in Manhattan