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Fire Chief Harry Howard (1822–1896)

Object Name: Statue
Date: ca. 1855
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Medium: Painted wood
Dimensions: Overall: 100 x 66 x 44 in. ( 254 x 167.6 x 111.8 cm ) Part (pedestal): 10 × 44 × 37 in. (25.4 × 111.8 × 94 cm)
Place made: North America, United States, New York
Description: Polychrome carved wooden sculpture of male figure in fireman's uniform and hat; left arm raised with finger pointed, right hand holding holds speaking horn; on square pedestal; fashioned primarily from one piece of wood with multiple additions pieces for arms, horn, left foot, coat drapes and pockets, helmet, medallion, and base; there are multiple layers (5-6) of paint, and a coating layer that covers portions of the sculpture.
Credit Line: Purchased from Elie Nadelman; Conservation made possible with the generous support of John S. Tamagni in honor of his grandfather Arthur Searle, NYFD, 1886-1909
Object Number: 1937.328
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This object was once part of the folk art collection of Elie Nadelman (1882-1946), the avant-garde sculptor. From 1924 to 1934, Nadelman's collection was displayed in his Museum of Folk Arts, located in the Riverdale section of the Bronx. The Historical Society purchased Nadelman's entire collection in 1937.

This monumental statue depicts fire chief Harry Howard (1822-1896) trumpeting orders to members of his company while gesturing them towards a blaze. One of the most celebrated firemen in New York City history, Howard was revered for his bravery and credited with saving many lives. He rose from humble beginnings to attain the position of chief engineer, the highest rank in the all-volunteer force. Originally placed atop the Harry Howard Hose Company No. 55 at 115 Christopher Street in New York City, the sculpture subsequently ornamented three other fire headquarters before taking its place in entry gallery of the Nadelman’s museum.


Harry Howard Hose Company, 115 Christopher Street, ca. 1853-1865; Neptune Engine Company No. 2, Paterson, New Jersey, ca. 1865-75; Protection Engine Company No. 5, Paterson, New Jersey, 1875–90; Paterson Exempt Firemen's Assocation, Paterson, 1890–1936; The Folk Art Collection of Elie and Viola Nadelman, Riverdale, NY 1936; purchased by N-YHS 1937.


"200 Years of American Sculpture," Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, NY, March 16–September 26, 1976.

"New York, The State of the Art," New York State Museum, Albany, NY, Fall 1977.

"The Rescue (History Responds)," New-York Historical Society, September 7, 2004–January 9, 2005.

"Making It Modern: The Folk Art Collection of Elie and Viola Nadelman," Albuquerque Museum of Art and History, NM, September 6–November 29, 2015; New-York Historical Society, May 20–August 21, 2016; Addison Gallery of American Art, Andover, MA, September 17–December 31, 2016.