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Last Run: 1925

Last Run: 1925

June 15, 1925. Washington, D.C. "Last run of Barney, Gene, and Tom, District Fire Department horses." Another look at the dashing steeds. View full size.


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Horse and Man

Apparently there were two "last runs": one on June 9th (described in the first article below) and then the one shown here on June 15th (and covered by the second article). In the days leading up to this, there was much public concern in Washington as to the fate of the horses: it was eventually announced they would retire to pasture at the Home for the Feeble and Infirm. While there were apocryphal stories that they could not serve in the harness for other carts (delivery, street sweepers, etc.) due to a propensity to bolt at the sound of the fire alarm, I am curious/skeptical if such incidents actually occurred. Does anyone personally know of such events?

The only mention I can find of the film "Horse and Man" is in a 1936 Univ. of California "Catalogue of selected 16mm. educational motion pictures"

Washington Post, Jun 10, 1925

Last Run Thrills 3 Old Fire Horses;
It's Just a Movie

But Barney, Tom and Gene Live Again at Sound of Long-Silent Gong

The last run! There's something pathetic about it. More so because Barney, Gene and Tom, those gray steeds of the fire service, don't seem to realize it.

For the past year they have stamped impatiently in their stalls waiting for the familiar clang that didn't come. Men spoke cryptically in the presence of their fire running days being over; of their being sold at auction or transferred to some lowly pursuit. The equestrienne veterans couldn't believe it.

It was a long time between calls and the three horses found life hardly worth living. For ten of their fourteen years of life they had given their best to the fire service. They couldn't understand their idleness.

Yesterday the movies appeared to give them a new lease on life. The department of Agriculture wanted some pictures of "The Last Fun" for a film it is making. Barney, Gene and Tom were the only ones that could give it to them.

The Last Run Begins

Early in the morning they were taken from No. 19 engine house to No. 8 and placed in the all-familiar stalls. This must be a return to service, they thought, and they pawed the sawdust floor and whinnied nervously. It was good to be back under the overhanging harness.

And then came the gong. The years and worries fell from their shoulders as the harness dropped into place. Although they had made only three runs the past year, they responded as if they had been in retirement only a day.

Firemen slid down the poles, throwing on their clothes as they did so. The kids came running, yelping, from everywhere. Driver D. Dwyer mounted an old engine, the chain across the front of the engine house dropped and they were off, bellowing kids and barking dogs in their wake. This was the life. Movie men were cranking away, but the veterans paid them no heed.

Back To Their Stalls

Out to Lincoln park, the job done, and then the triumphal trot back. A brisk rub down while the kids stood around admiringly. Then back to their stables. They last run!

Dome disposition is to be made of the horses July 1. There's no place for them in modern fire service. Maybe they will be sold, or more likely they will be transferred to the street cleaning department.

Photo Caption: After ten years of faithful service, "Tom, Gene and Barney," veteran horses of the District fire department, finally made their debut in the movies yesterday, when they were called upon to play the stellar roles in the Department of Agriculture film entitled "Horse and Man." All horses of the department will be sold Monday.

Washington Post, Jun 13, 1925

Faithful Fire Horses

Washington Post, Jun 16, 1925

Fire Horses, Retiring,
Eat Floral Tribute

With tributes such as are rarely, if ever given pensioners, Barney, Gene and Tom, the last of Washington's fire horses went into retirement yesterday. Before going to Blue Plains to pass the rest of their days in pasture, however, the horses gave the large crowd at Engine house No. 8 a thrill by galloping through the streets as of old, with an old pumper rumbling at their heels.

The horses dashed along North Carolina avenue southeast, stopped instinctively at a fire plug, and returned leisurely to the engine house. They were met by Commissioner Frederick Fenning, Fire Chief George Watson, and Fire Chief Frank J. Wagner, retired. Huge bouquets of flowers were bestowed on the trio, who appreciating their fragrance less than their taste, ate them.


That looks like a very intricate piece of machinery that Barney, Gene and Tom are pulling around.

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