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Phoenixville's Fire Horse Silver Cup History at the Devon Horse Show
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By NewsDesk
May 25, 2022

PHOENIXVILLE, PA - The Phoenixville Fire Department has a long and proud history that dates back to its founding in 1874. A key part of that history involved a pair of dapple grey fire horses named Harry and Duke.

Unlike fire departments in major cities which had central training facilities and which provided trained horses to the fire companies, Phoenixville’s horses were locally housed and trained.

It was reported that Harry weighed 1,325 pounds. At that size they were well suited to pull steamers and chemical engines. An average sized thoroughbred racehorse in comparison weighs 1,100 pounds.

In 1905 Nathan P. White was hired as the paid driver and thus responsible for the horses. Once the team of Harry and Duke were formed Mr. White began training. They learned at the sound of the alarm to move from their stalls into position beneath the drop-harness which would be lowered from the ceiling onto their backs for a quick hitch, at White’s command to rush to the scene. Once there they would stand quietly until returning to the fire house.

In May of 1911 Duke and Harry were entered at the Devon Horse Show. A team of borrowed horses were used as backups in the event of a fire call. Pulling the chemical and hose wagon and driven by White they competed against fire horse teams from Berwyn, Bryn Mawr, and Paoli bringing first place honors back to Phoenixville. They would again return to Devon and win first place in 1912.

The two silver cups made their way back to Devon Horse Show as this year’s event takes place from Thursday, May 26th - Sunday, June 5th. This is the first time these awards are back on display in Devon after being awarded in 1911 and 1912. Several original photographs and reproductions of Harry and Duke will also be displayed underneath the Main Grand Stand in the Hospitality Room / Turf Club.

The Devon Horse Show is both the oldest and largest outdoor multi-breed horse competition in the United States that dates back to 1896. To learn more details about the show visit https://www.devonhorseshow.net.

Thank you to the Historical Society of the Phoenixville Area (HSPA) and Sue Marshall for their great research and efforts to never forget the great history of Phoenixville. To learn more about the HSPA visit http://www.hspa-pa.org/. And special thanks to 50 year Phoenixville Fire Department volunteer firefighter and fire service historian David B. Meadows, Sr. for his assistance with getting the spirit of Harry and Duke back in Devon.


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