Mose Humphrey was a member of Fire Company 40 in New York City in the 19th century, and the inspiration for the folk hero character "Mose the Fireboy".

Mose Humphrey, as played by Frank Chanfrau

The character of Mose first appeared on Broadway in Benjamin A. Baker's A Glance at New York, in 1848.[1] Mose was featured in several stage shows and penny novels in the mid-19th century. The character was most identified with actor Frank Chanfrau.[2]

The Fireboy character was said to have a height of 8 ft (2.4 m) and hands as big as Virginia hams, able to lift trolley cars over his head and rescue babies inside a stovepipe hat, as his own beaver hat was two foot across the brim. Certain stories recall Mose performing extraordinary deeds, such as swimming the Hudson River with two strokes, or tearing up mulberry and cherry trees to use as a bludgeon against the Plug Uglies, a gang that were at odds with New York Firemen Co. 49.

The real Mose was a parishioner of St. Andrew's Church.[3]


  1. ^ Genzlinger, Neil (October 23, 2007). "New York's Good Old Days Were Often Far From Nice". New York Times. Retrieved 23 January 2018.
  2. ^ Wilmeth, Don B.; Bigsby, Christopher, eds. (1998). The Cambridge History of American Theatre: Beginnings to 1870. Cambridge University Press. p. 460. ISBN 0-521-47204-0.
  3. ^ "Who Are Those Guys? Part 1: Lower Manhattan Statues". Forgotten New York. May 28, 2001.

Further reading