"In the 1890s, the biggest cities of the western world faced a mounting
problem. Horse-drawn vehicles had been in use for thousands of years, and it
was hard to imagine life without them. But as the number of such vehicles
increased during the 19th century, the drawbacks of using horses in densely
populated cities were becoming ever more apparent.
In particular, the accumulation of horse manure on the streets, and the
associated stench, were impossible to miss. By the 1890s, about 300,000 horses
were working on the streets of London, and more than 150,000 in New York City.
Each of these horses produced an average of 10kg of manure a day, plus about a
litre of urine. Collecting and removing thousands of tonnes of waste from
stables and streets proved increasingly difficult.
The problem had been building up for decades. A newspaper editor in New York
City said in 1857 that “with the exception of a very few thoroughfares, all the
streets are one mass of reeking, disgusting filth, which in some places is
piled to such a height as to render them almost impassable to vehicles”. As
well as filling the air with a terrible stench, the abundance of horse manure
turned streets into muddy cesspools whenever it rained. An eyewitness account
from London in the 1890s describes the “mud” (the accepted euphemism among
prudish Victorians) that often flooded the Strand, one of the city’s main
thoroughfares, as having the consistency of thick pea soup. Passing vehicles
“would fling sheets of such soup – where not intercepted by trousers or skirts
– completely across the pavement”, spattering and staining nearby houses and
shop fronts. Manure collected from the streets was piled up at dumps dotted
around major towns and cities. Huge piles of manure also built up next to
stables and provided an attractive environment for flies."
*** Xanni ***
Chief Scientist, Xanadu
Partner, Glass Wings
Manager, Serious Cybernetics