Mose the Fireman, a 19th Century New York Theatre Icon, Returns to the Boards Off-Broadway, May 29-July 19. | Playbill

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News Mose the Fireman, a 19th Century New York Theatre Icon, Returns to the Boards Off-Broadway, May 29-July 19. One of the most popular dramatic characters of the New York stage in the 19th century—and a figure almost completely forgotten today—was Mose the Fireman. Off-Broadway Axis Company will try to revive the memory of that urban Paul Bunyon with its new production of the 1948 melodrama A Glance at New York.

The Benjamin A. Baker play, which hasn't been on the boards since the Civil War, will run at Axis' Greenwich Village space May 29 to July 19. Randy Sharp adapted the work and will direct.

A Glance at New York, a sensation in its day, introduced Mose the Fireman to the public. Baker patterned the character after a real man, Moses Humphrey, who was a printer at the New York Sun and a volunteer fireman at a time when firehouses acted more like neighborhood political clubhouses than public services. Fire companies would guard their territory jealously and sometimes battle each other for the honor of dousing a building (often allowing the structure to collapse while they fought).

Baker himself was a volunteer fireman, working at Old Engine Co. #15. He was also an actor and prompter at Mitchell's Olympic Theater on lower Broadway. (At the time, the city's theatre district was below Houston Street.) It was at the Olympic that Glance debuted.

Mose was an Irish mountain of a man, and audiences (typically lower class, rowdy ones who favored depictions of the salty, sordid life of the Bowery) would cheer as he trounced his enemies and rivals and then rescued defenseless women and children from raging conflagrations.

When Glance proved a hit at the Olympic, Baker followed it up with New York As It Is. After that, Mose plays became a cottage industry, with authors of all stripe penning adventures for the Gotham Goliath. Wren Arthur, Brian Barnhart, David Crabb, Joe Fuer, Laurie Kilmartin, Sue Ann Molinell, Edgar Oliver, Margo Passalaqua, Jim Sterling and Christopher Swift will star in A Glance at New York. Tickets are $20. For information and reservations, call 212-807-9300 or visit

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