The Green Tree: Highlights from the Collection of the Mutual Assurance Company of Philadelphia - April 2007
Nathaniel Currier
(1813–1888) after Louis Maurer (1832–1932)
The Life of a Fireman: The Fire—
“Now then . . . with a will—Shake Her Up Boys!”
, 1854
Lithograph, 17 1/8 × 25 7/8 inches
Inscribed (in plate): “New York, Published by N. Currier 115 Nassau Street/L. Maurer, Del./Lith by N. Currier. Entered according to Act of Congress in the year 1854 by N. Currier, in the Clerk’s offices of the District Court of the Southern District of N.Y.”
References: Garvan and Wojtowicz 1977, 144.
RS 6230

The lithographer and publisher Nathaniel Currier (1813–1888) established a highly successful printing firm in New York City in 1834. He published a set of four color lithographs in 1854 titled “The Life of a Fireman,” that is now considered the most famous of prints that deal with the subject of firefighting. Drawn by the German-born lithographer and painter Louis Maurer (1832–1932), these scenes represent different stages in the course of fighting a fire in New York City. Currier and Maurer, along with some of their colleagues, were members of a volunteer fire company, and they appear throughout the scenes. The Night Alarm, the first in the series, shows Excelsior Company No. 2, of 21 Henry Street, leaving the fire station; Currier is seen at the left running to join his comrades.

The first four lithographs in “The Life of a Fireman” series all show hand-pumper engines that were transported and manned by large crews of men. As time passed fire companies began replacing hand-pumpers with the more efficient steam-powered engines that were drawn by teams of horses, and these would be the subject of two lithographs that were added to the series in 1861 and 1866.


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