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Complete Explanation:
Tammany Hall's political manipulation of the New York Fire Department is the artist's obvious target here, although the print's precise meaning is unclear. The frame of reference may be the creation, in 1839, of a number of "paper" fire companies by the Tammany-controlled city council, a measure devised to give them a significant number of new voting representatives on the Board of Foremen and Assistants. The companies were organized by loyal Tammanyites during June of that year and nicknamed "June Bugs" by an indignant public.

The artist shows a number of firemen spraying water on a fire in the building of "Willis, Nichols, Howe, Timpson, Lee & Co." On the backs of their coats symbols, indicative of their trades or businesses (including a druggist's mortar and pestle, a poundcake, a mason's trowel), have been painted by a man who runs off to the right announcing, "24 new Companies. Mr. Chief at your service." Conspicuous on the far left is a man, possibly Democratic mayor Isaac Varian, who watches saying, "This 'werry' plan I recommended in my Message."

From the new "firemen" come the following remarks: "Collecting taxes pays better than this."

"I must be either Commissioner or property saver."

"I'll bet {dollar}100 he'll be Chief."

"I didn't know there was to be an election tomorrow night" (possibly alluding to the controversial 1839 election of a new chief engineer of the Fire Department).

"James I think they'll get enough this time."

Two firemen on the right hold amplifying horns. One says, "Lay it on the table eh! John we must pay 'em for that if we don't I'll be damned." The other, with a wagon wheel on the back of his coat, says, "Up with her up to the hub by J--s."

A fireman leaning from a window shouts, "Play away no. 140 we want your assistance we can't get down."

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