Black & White - Horses

The New York that I had come back to was not my old New York. I used to wander around the streets disconsolately, until one night during a blizzard, I happened to see a man watering a couple of steaming horse-car horses, and I thought, “Well, there at any rate is the human touch.” That made me feel much better.

Alfred Stieglitz

Alfred Stieglitz, “The Terminal, New York” (1892)

Alfred Stieglitz, Spiritual America, 1923

some facts:

Horses did not disappear from cities overnight. Rather, they went function by function. It has already been noted that, while horse-powered machines persisted in manufacturing until about 1850, they were largely replaced by other energy sources in the following decade. The next use of urban horses to disappear was pulling streetcars. Their demise was very rapid, as between 1888 and 1892 almost every street railway in the U.S. was electrified. A few small companies kept horses for about another decade because they could not get permission to electrify, but they were a minor element in the industry. The rapidity of the change is explained primarily by the incredible technological advantage of electric traction in terms of speed in spite of its capital intensiveness.

from: The Horse & the Urban Environment

another interesting article about this topic:
The Decline of the Urban Horse in American Cities

Byron, The close of a career in New York, ca. 1905

Robert Doisneau, The Fallen Horse, 1942, From Three Seconds of Eternity

Bruce Davidson

Sabine Weiss. Porte de Vanves, Paris, 1953

Keith Carter, Goodbye to a Horse, 1993

Ralph Gibson

Ernst Haas, Misfits, 1960

Paul Strand

Vivian Maier

Louis Stettner, Rodeo Cowboy, Rockefeller Center, New York, 1972

Edouard Boubat, Rue Servandoni, Paris 1948

Berenice Abbott. Sunside Stock & Poultry Farm, n.d.

Michael Becotte

Henri Cartier-Bresson

O. Winston Link

Elliott Erwitt

Janusz Czarnecki

Hans Hammarskiöld, Spanish Riding School, 1952

Edward Steichen. White, 1935

Marc Riboud, British Museum, 1954

German Herrera

Josef Koudelka. Romania, 1968

Jukka Male, Gienek Roś, 1979

Isa Leshko, Handsome One, Thoroughbred Horse, Age 33
from the series: Elderly Animals


  1. Oh, what a gorgeous post. It's beautiful and makes my soul sing, but makes me feel melancholy, too. Sort of like when I was a little girl, reading Black Beauty. I so wished that I lived in a time when horses were still used in daily life. One of my favorite songs is "The Last Trip Home" by Battlefield Band. (It's on the CD "Scotland the Real".) It has a similar theme.

    1. Thank you, Kate! I think we can hardly imagine how much animals have been a part of human reality and even urban life before the 20th Century. But I guess for horses, especially during the early years of industrialization, it was a very hard life.


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