Buffalo in the ’30s: Buffalo’s outer harbor fog horn

By Steve Cichon

“When the fog horn at the entrance of Buffalo harbor begins its mournful ‘moo,’ ending in an abrupt roar, it does more than prompt some of the populace within its range to answer in lurid expletives, or send others to demand of officials that it be stilled.”

Buffalo News archives

Buffalo’s main lighthouse — and attached diaphone foghorn — was known as “The Breakwater Light” at the time of this 1930 photo.

Eighty-five years ago, Buffalo was still a great port city. And as a great port city, harbormasters had to guide ships into Buffalo under all conditions.

To beat the frequent Lake Erie fog, the lighthouse’s great fog horn — which could be heard from 25 miles away — was sounded to bring those lake freighters in safely.

This horn is similar to the one that graced Buffalo Harbor in the 1930s.

While the blaring horn helped ships’ captains pilot their craft, “the mournful moo” was not, as you might imagine, conducive to sleeping in the vicinity of the harbor.

It’s not clear whether the photo was printed incorrectly in the paper or on the photo print that was found in The News’ archives.

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Steve Cichon

Steve Cichon is a proud Buffalonian helping the world experience the city he loves. writing about the people, places, and ideas that make Buffalo unique and special. The storyteller and historian has written six books, worn bow ties since the 80s, and is the News Director at WECK Radio. A 25 year Buffalo media veteran, Steve's contributed more than 1400 Buffalo History stories to The Buffalo News, worked at WIVB-TV, Empire Sports Network, and spent ten years as a newsman and News Director at WBEN Radio. He's also put his communication skills to work as an adjunct professor, a producer of PBS documentaries, and even run for Erie County Clerk. Steve's Buffalo roots run deep: all eight of his great-grandparents called Buffalo home, with his first ancestors arriving here in 1827.