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 writes about Buffalo’s pop culture history. His stories of Buffalo's past have appeared more than 1600 times in The Buffalo News. He's a proud Buffalonian helping the world experience the city he loves. Since the earliest days of the internet, Cichon's been creating content celebrating the people, places, and ideas that make Buffalo unique and special. The 25-year veteran of Buffalo radio and television has written five books and curates The Buffalo Stories Archives-- hundreds of thousands of books, images, and audio/visual media which tell the stories of who we are in Western New York.