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Historical Art, American Firefighting, Set of 4 Antique Prints, 1858


Running to a Fire: A Collision (No. 1)
Near a Fire: An Awkward Attachment (No. 2)
Near a Fire: Say! Just hold this while I fetch another Section, will you. (Likely?) (No. 3)
At a Fire: What Boys may expect when they get in Firemen’s way (No. 4)

from The Fireman
Harrison & Weightman, Philadelphia: 1858
Hand-colored lithographs
7.5 x 5.5 inches, image
10 x 7.5 inches overall
$3,600, set of 4

Set of four lithographs with humorous depictions of fire fighters rushing about their work in an urban setting amidst oblivious pedestrians. Although the details of the setting are very realistic, the situations are broadly slapstick and somewhat satirical. In the first, Running to a Fire: A Collision, a fireman blows an alert on a trumpet, upsetting the wares of a curbside fruit vendor as he rushes past. The fireman determinedly marching down the sidewalk with his ladder in Near a Fire: An Awkward Attachment has unwittingly hooked its ends on the coat of an elegantly dressed gent who struggles to keep his balance. In the foreground, water sprays from two small leaks in the firehose lying in the street. The third plate, also titled Near a Fire, shows the ­handsome, bearded fireman futilely asking a snobbish gent carrying a cane and a cigar to hold the hose while he runs to get another section. The fourth plate, At a Fire, takes place at the site of a burning building and demonstrates “what Boys may expect when they get in Firemen’s way” — that is, blasted in the face by a spray of water.


This is apparently the entire set. Another set is in the collection of the Library of Congress (see References below). Fire-fighting prints were popular in the 19th Century, particularly those published by Currier & Ives. The offered set is apparently a rarity, and would make a good addition to a collection of American fire-fighting prints and memorabilia.

According to the publication information below each print, Harrison & Weightman was operated by Henry G. Harrison and William N. Weightman in Philadelphia.

Full publication information below each print: “Entered according to Act of congress, in the year 1858, by Henry G. Harrison & William N. Weightman, in the Clerks Office of the District Court of the Eastern District of Penn’a. Pub. by Harrison & Weightman 118 N. 10th St. Phil’a.”

Condition: Generally very good with the usual overall toning and wear. Few faint scattered foxing and paper impurity spots. Formerly laid on board, now removed; some with very light skinning on verso not affecting front. Some bumps and creases to outer margins.


“Pictorial Americana: Firefighting and Fires.” Prints and Photographs Reading Room, Library of Congress. 29 December 2004. (9 June 2008).

Additional information


19th Century