The Keep Your Fire Escapes Clear Poster is a significant piece of New York City’s historical memorabilia.
This vividly designed public safety announcement, issued by the Tenement House Department of the City of New York, combines practical urban advice with compelling graphic artistry. The bold imagery of the fire escape against a high-contrast red and green backdrop not only captures the eye but also conveys an essential message with urgency and clarity.
Illustrated during an era when fire safety began to take precedence in the rapidly expanding urban landscape, this poster serves as a powerful reminder of the city’s commitment to the welfare of its residents. The message is straightforward – keeping fire escapes unobstructed is critical for safety – and is amplified by the striking visual of sheets and clothing carelessly draped over a fire escape, a common sight in New York’s tenements of the past.
The design is a classic example of the Works Progress Administration (WPA) style, with its strong lines, stark colors, and geometric shapes. It encapsulates the essence of the 1930s and ’40s civic communication and stands as a testament to the era’s design sensibilities and the city’s robust public information campaigns.
Keep Your Fire Escapes Clear Poster is more than a cautionary sign; it’s a piece of New York’s legacy, a bridge between the city’s past and present, and a captivating work of art.