The archives of the Fire Department of New York has released footage of a borough department responding to a fire in 1926. In the first of two silent videos, the camera is mounted on the car transporting Fire Chief John Kenlon from the Brooklyn Fire Department to a storage warehouse fire on East 123rd Street. Kenlon's name comes up frequently in the rise of the FDNY during the early part of the 20th century. The date of the video is given as April 24, 1926, and it was not only a remarkably snowy spring day, it could be the first dashcam video ever.

The second video takes us through the entire process of a fire call, from the fire alarm – placed in a box on the street – to the call going to the Manhattan Fire Alarm Telegraph Bureau and then being sent to the stations, and the department fighting the fire.

The low-res screencap above shows the hood of Kenlon's vehicle, with a clanging bell at the front, driving on the sidewalk among pedestrians to get to the fire. As you'll see in the videos below, the situation on the actual roads was just as chaotic as the driving. So is the footage playback itself, which repeats and plays upside down and backwards at times, but we think is worth every second.






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  • 132 Comments
      POD
      • 1 Year Ago
      This footage looks like it's being played back or projected at the wrong frame rate. Films from the silent era were shot at 16 frame per second but are commonly and mistakenly project at 24. This gives them an unintentional Keystone Cop effect. A dead giveaway is the speed at which the fireman came down the pole and walked off frame left. Still, I think even if it were played back at the proper frame rate, the streets full of cars, pedestrians, and horses would seem just as chaotic. Just a little less like the pod race from The Phantom Menace.
      mitchell
      • 1 Year Ago
      Fire fighters back in those days had no oxygen tanks and a lot of balls climbing those ladders."
      Avinash Machado
      • 1 Year Ago
      Nice historic footage.
      posthuf
      • 1 Year Ago
      Somethings never change. Still people refusing to get out of the way of emergency vehicle even with all the flashing lights, bells, whistles, and sirens. All I can say every time I see that is I hope they are responding to your family members, not mine.
      Steven
      • 1 Year Ago
      Those drivers in the film would eventually become Florida retirees in the '70s and '80s when I was growing up there. Now I know how they got their bad driving skills.
      bandicoot5
      • 1 Year Ago
      My grandmother had just turned thirteen months around the time this was filmed. I was really surprised by how many horse drawn carriages there were back then. I think it's fantastic that this was found and put online for us. I like looking back at how it was "in the olden days", and look at where we are today. What will future generations think when they look back at today, eighty-seven years from now? We will be the "olden days" and 1926 will be positively prehistoric to them. It's hard to know where you are going if you don't know where you've been. Thank you to the FDNY for sharing this.
      omgcool
      • 1 Year Ago
      This is eerily amazing. Imagine if we still drove like this.
      eagle6922
      • 1 Year Ago
      the 20th century teen's/20's/30's is when is when I would have loved to live. despite the depression and several recessions. It still was better than today. Simpicity!!!!!!!!Knowing what I know today. I wish I had a time machine to go back. Maybe the world would change for the better with the imformation I would give. No WWI. No murdering of the Czar and his family, etc. What a Gadsby time I would have. Meeting all the greats. The Babe, Dempsey, Hemmingway, Hughes, Harlow, Gable, Davis, presidents. Of course the list goes on. I would have them all fill the NEW YANKEE STADIUM to explain what was over the horizon for the world. How they needed to change the coming events.
      MRFOOT....LABAS!
      • 1 Year Ago
      ...CAN YOU IMAGINE FILM THAT IS STORED THATS NEVER BEEN FOUND!...FD OR PD OR OTHERWISE...,,
        ashespaw
        • 1 Year Ago
        @MRFOOT....LABAS!
        I have some film, 36mm, from WWII that my father-in-law brought back from the Philippines, where he spent the entire war fighting with the Filipinos. I've wanted to watch it but have been afraid that it is too fragile.
      Velocity105
      • 1 Year Ago
      Amazing to see film of an era from almost a century ago. No air-conditioning, no pop tarts, no microwaves and NO ANTIBIOTICS. Typhoid Fever almost got my Mom, 8 weeks in bed with a fever and lost all her hair though it grew back. You wanna go back and live in the 1920's? Don't get sick.
      Lilly
      • 1 Year Ago
      I am amazed at the amount of cars that were on the road back then. Traffic as bad as today. Wonderful video.
      Daniel D
      • 1 Year Ago
      That is completely insane! I'm not sure how the good fire chief got through that traffic to any fires, but I suspect they had quite a few repairs done to their vehicles as a standard operational expense. Great film and I'm glad someone posted it online.
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