From 1893 to 1895 I often walked the streets of New York downtown, near the East River, taking my hand camera with me. . . . [One day] I found myself in front of the old Post Office. . . . It was extremely cold. Snow lay on the ground. A driver in a rubber coat was watering his steaming car horses.
Though many of Alfred Stieglitz's early photographs relied heavily upon atmosphere to mute the harshness of urban life, he romanticized nothing in this image. At the southern end of the Harlem streetcar line that traveled up and down Fifth Avenue, he simply captured a streetcar driver watering his horses in front of the old Post Office.
At the time, Stieglitz had just returned from Germany and found America culturally barren in comparison. According to one anecdote, when he saw the horses being nourished by their driver, he decided that he should assume the same role and nourish the arts in this country. Within a few years, Stieglitz was organizing pioneering exhibitions of painting, photography, and sculpture in his modest galleries.