SHORPY Historic Photo Archive & Fine-Art Prints
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About the Photos

Our holdings include hundreds of glass and film negatives/transparencies that we've scanned ourselves; in addition, many other photos on this site were extracted from reference images (high-resolution tiffs) in the Library of Congress research archive. (To query the database click here.) They are adjusted, restored and reworked by your webmaster in accordance with his aesthetic sensibilities before being downsized and turned into the jpegs you see here. All of these images (including "derivative works") are protected by copyright laws of the United States and other jurisdictions and may not be sold, reproduced or otherwise used for commercial purposes without permission.

© 2019 SHORPY INC.

[REV 25-NOV-2014]

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Four's Company: 1943

Four's Company: 1943

January 1943. "Engine Company No. 4, Washington, D.C. Firemen returning from a fire." Photo by Gordon Parks for the Office of War Information. View full size.

To stay online without a paywall or a lot of pop-up ads, Shorpy needs your help. (Our server rental alone is $3,000 a year.) You can contribute by becoming a Patron, or by purchasing a print from the Shorpy Archive. Or both! Read more about our 2019 pledge drive here. Our last word on the subject is: Thanks!

6th and R Street NW

Engine Company No. 4 was DC's first all-black firefighting company. It was moved to 931 R Street NW in 1940. This scene shows the truck heading east on R Street as it crosses 6th Street. Only one of the houses with the fancy turrets on the left still has its turret (602 R Street NW). This photo is probably from the series Gordon Parks did to document Engine 4.

No more tailboarding

The practice of tailboarding (as we called it where I was), that is having firefighters ride on the back step, was abolished throughout the U.S. by the mid-1970s. It was an incredibly dangerous practice and lots of firefighters were killed falling off the back of the truck trying to get into their gear while bumping down streets and around corners.

Modern fire trucks have inside seating with seats designed to hold turnout gear and breathing apparatus so that you can don your gear while in motion and still be safe. Firefighters do a much better job when they arrive alive!

Back step Firefighters

No longer do Firefighters ride the back step to fires. Today they all sit in an enclosed cab, most often air conditioned.

The days of the back step firemen are gone.

SHORPY OLD PHOTO ARCHIVE | History in HD is a vintage photo archive featuring thousands of high-definition images from the 1850s to 1960s. (Available as fine-art prints from the Shorpy Archive.) The site is named after Shorpy Higginbotham, a teenage coal miner who lived 100 years ago.

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