Sunday, March 13, 2011

New York Fire Department, Annual Parade - 1904

Filmed May 14, 1904. Thomas A. Edison, Inc.
Camera: Edwin S. Porter

The opening begins with some dignitaries arriving in a horse drawn brougham to view the parade. This brief clip displays all of the elements of a complete fire house unit in the early twentieth century. A dignified line of mounted firemen lead a portion of the march [0:20] followed by a marching band of uniformed fire officers, carrying the Fireman's Trumpet sometimes know as a "speaking trumpet." These were given to fire chiefs, foremen, and assistant foremen [0:50]. The line of march is interspersed with firefighters carrying various pieces of equipment, the marchers baring hoses, a rescue trampoline, a horse drawn pump, a hose wagon. At 2:30 there's a hook-and-ladder, fully equipped, as the combination of horse drawn vehicles repeat with an ambulance at 3:50. As the line continues past, there's a brass band with drummers leading flag bearers holding an American flag and the fire department insignia together [4:18]. A good view of a contemporary hook-and-ladder as the film finishes with gas powered vehicles. The last is possibly a fire chief's car. Although gas powered vehicles were now a part of daily life, horses would still remain a part of the urban scene in other working capacities for at least another 30 years.
In 1898 all of the city's volunteer fire departments were replaced by the paid FDNY. Consolidation also replaced the Board of Fire Commissioners with a single commissioner, John J. Scannell, head of the Board since 1894, who was appointed by Mayor R.A. Van Wyck. All together New York, Brooklyn, and Long Island had 121 engines, 46 trucks, one horse wagon, and a water tower; in all, there were 309 square miles of firefighting territory. New York was the second largest city after London with 3.4 million people and a growing number of tall buildings.

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