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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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Help! Fire! Help!

Help! Fire! Help!

Coney Island, New York, circa 1905. An attraction called "Fighting the Flames." 8x10 inch dry plate glass negative, Detroit Publishing Company. View full size.

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The Fall Guy

Is that guy gonna bounce off the awning and land on his feet and say "TA DA!!"?


As a volunteer firefighter I couldn't help be worried about the fate of that structure - there were only two hose and ladder companies for such a large structure, only one working hose line and one chief officer (white helmet).

Then I noticed the "real" people in the foreground and noticed the advertisement for FIGHTING THE FLAMES. Then I saw the repeating horizontal lines in the photograph and realized it was some sort of backdrop.

As I said before, Whew! And, for myself, an added "Duh!"

Moe Levy says "Fire Sale! Bargains Galore!"

I was sure the product names on the backdrops not particularly in flame's way (so to speak) were things people actually could buy. But Moe Levy's emporium, right smack next to the action, had to be fictitious, I thought. Who wants to have a company name associated with tragedy, real or make-believe?

Then I found this photo on Walter Grutchfield's site with this text: "Moe Levy 'Outfitters to Man & Boy' (established 1882) was in business as Moses Levy, tailor, at 119 Walker St., New York City in 1896. Moe Levy manufactured and retailed men's clothing and specialized in low prices.

"From the home base of 119-125 Walker St. (which would now be considered a part of Chinatown) he opened numerous branch outlets in the city including Brooklyn, the Bronx and Jamaica, Queens. Particularly long-lived was the branch store on East 149 St. in the Bronx, first at 409 E. 149 (1921-1939), then across the street at 380 E. 149 (1940-1951).

"Moe Levy & Son went out of business in the early 1950's.
This sign can be precisely dated to the range 1906-1908."

Now THAT is product placement.

Freedom Land, 55 years earlier

In the one time I was taken to Freedom Land in the Bronx (now the site of Co-op City), there was a "fire" that we kids could all help all put out--the great Chicago Fire. I remember thinking as a kid "what a wonderful and new idea" it was to have an attraction like that. Ha!

BTW June 19 was the 50th anniversary of the opening of that park, which was supposed to be the Disney Land of the east, but which, unfortunately, did not last long.

Popular with the Insurance Men

The Summary, Vol. 33, 1905

"Fighting the flames" proved to be so popular as to warrant extensive elaboration of last year's scheme and construction and recasting involving an expenditure of $40,000. An entire block of buildings will be fire-ravaged at each performance. At the "fire lines" will be a crowd of 600 spectators. Taking part in the exciting illustration of department excellence and intrepidity will be 120 firemen. Chief Sweeney, once of the New York Fire Department, will be in charge.

The Insurance Press, Vol. 18, 1904

Many insurance men are nightly seen at Coney Island, with their wives and families, watching the firemen in "Fighting the Flames."

Billboard Magazine, Feb 26, 1949

Murphy, Fredrick J., 89, one-time circus man, February 15 in Utica, N.Y. He once toured with the Buffalo Bill Show, the Barnum and the Frank A. Robbins circuses. In 1904 he developed an exhibit called Fighting the Flames, which he showed at Coney Island and Revere Beach, Boston.


Is that dude jumpin to his grizzly death?

[That was across the street -- "Fighting the Bears." - Dave]

U-Lika Bis-Kit

At first I thought the set designers were afraid of using the name Uneeda Biscuit so they came up with a pseudonym of "U-Lika Bis-Kit." But they didn't seem to have any problem touting Mennen, Painless Parker, Chiclets, and scads of other brand names.

Then I found the following in "Profits" Magazine, March 5, 1904:

Quiet Little Biscuit War

A quiet little war is being waged in the biscuit line in New York and nearby centers, the outcome of which will be watched intently by those opposed to trusts in general and especially where one will receive for their nickel an article conceded by all to be of very much better quality and manufacture.

The Manhattan Biscuit Company, the largest independent bakery In the United States, are making a feature of the U-lika Bis-kit, and it has already taken a prominent position alongside of, if not in advance, of its famous competitor. Instead of spending the greater portion of their receipts telling what they mean to do, the Manhattan Company expend every possible dollar in the manufacture and perfection of the biscuit as a whole before being offered to the critical housewife and consumer. This company, must of necessity, soon occupy a distinct position in its respective line; i.e., the partial refreshing of the hungry broker in his family circle, where they all U-lika Bis-kit.

Painterly quality

Wow! There is so much to see in this photo. The juxtaposition of the buildings makes it look like a backdrop for a stage. Smoke, fire engines, people climbing down fire escapes and ladders. An Undertaker wagon at the bottom. A horse drawn ambulance in the lower right. Wonder how long it would take to get to the hospital that way, and in what shape. All the advertising all over the buildings and signs. And lastly, the prophetic banner at the top proclaiming " fighting the flames." And lower, "Sensational. Spectacular. Realistic."

[It looks like a painted backdrop on a stage because it is a painted backdrop on a stage! - Dave]

Moxie stand!

Another old favorite.

It's Sensational

... Spectacular! Realistic! Now featuring that marvel of the Modern Age: Product Placement!

Hey Cousin!

How about throwin' a few of those unredeemed diamonds my way?!

Six years later

Dreamland burned down! No tickets required, either.


Apparently the androgynous Mr. Brown augmented his shoe sales income with his ginger snap gig.

Where can I get some?

I'll take a box or two of that Mennen's toilet powder.

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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