photo op

How New York City Used to Use Horses

Dump at 133rd Street & Harlem River, Bronx. Men wait on horse-drawn wagons loaded with garbage. May 1925.
Photo: A. Tennyson Beals/New York City Municipal Archives

There was one other big difference between old New York and new New York that we noticed while perusing the city’s online photo archives, but we thought it was important enough to break off into its own post. We speak, of course (“of course” because you already saw the headline, not because it’s obvious otherwise) of horses. Horses serve two main functions in the city these days: They sometimes carry police officers, and, to the consternation of animal welfare groups, they take tourists on cheesy carriage rides through Central Park. But back in Olden Times, horses had to do pretty much everything that cars and trucks do today. Obviously! We are not trying to sell this as a revelation of any kind. Still, through the magic of photography, let’s take this moment to appreciate just how many roles horses used to play in the day-to-day lives of New Yorkers. 

Street cleaner:

Snow Plow:


Photo: Department of Public Charities

Fire Truck:

Subway Excavator:

Garbage Truck:

Photo: A. Tennyson Beals/New York City Municipal Archives



Photo: Ralph de Sola


Interviewing Ed Koch:

Photo: New York City Municipal Archives