Frank Chanfrau as Mose

The character of Mose first appeared on the New York stage in Benjamin Baker’s A Glance at New York, in 1848. A volunteer fire fighter, or “fire laddie,” Mose was a larger-than-life character who thrilled working-class Bowery audiences with his street fighting and fire rescue exploits. More plays featuring Mose, written by Baker and others, soon became a popular theatrical staple in New York. This photograph is of the actor Frank Chanfrau, who originated the role of Mose. The fictional Mose was based on the real-life Moses Humphrey, a printer at the New York Sun newspaper and member of Fire Company 40. Frank Chanfrau’s brother, Henry Chanfrau, was said to have famously defeated Humphrey in an 1838 fight, driving the printer out of New York City in shame.


Frank Chanfrau as Mose