Great Horse Manure Crisis of 1894 Solved Through Civic Reform Efforts

'White Wings' (or Angels) cleaning up New York streets needed police protection during a strike of garbage haulers, a separate service. PHOTO: via Pinterest

Editor Note: There are lessons to be learned here concerning the sub-zero low brow policies being employed in many US cities. This is a template for how to deal with the urban decay.

“Every high civilization decays by forgetting obvious things.” – G.K. Chesterton

In 2004, Stephen Davies the education director at the neoliberal Institute for Economics Affairs in London wrote an article titled the “Great Horse Manure Crisis of 1894.” In it, he sang the virtues of technology, “science” and free markets at solving major problems. He proclaimed that the great manure crisis just “vanished” when millions of horses were replaced by motor vehicles, primarily through price mechanisms and technology. What a bogus account of what really happened. The success came about through civic leadership- there were far fewer sub-zeros on the scene.

No reader here has access to anyone who could describe the rather long transition from horse to car. I could have gotten the story first hand from my grandfather, but he died in 1986 at age 96. It’s hard to even visualize or imagine, but the first photo shows a New York City street in 1894.

The chart below shows the transition, which in reality was hard fought. My maternal grandfather established the first Harley Davidson and auto dealerships in northeastern Oregon (LaGrande) in about 1915. However, he was a pioneer in the industry.

Notice that even in 1920 non-farm horses were still common, 26 years after the “horse manure crisis.” In fact, it wasn’t until well into the roaring ’20s that the transition away from horses and their manure was complete.

source : IMF

London in 1900 still had 11,000 cabs, all horse-powered. There were also several thousand buses, each of which required 12 horses per day, a total of more than 50,000 horses. In addition, there were countless carts, drays and wains, all working constantly to deliver the goods needed by the rapidly growing population of what was then the largest city in the world.

Similar figures could be produced for any great city of the time. It was estimated that New York City in 1900 had 100,000 horses producing 2.5-million pounds of horse manure every day. Horse carcasses rotted in the streets.

Image result for "george waring" new york city streets

The public suffered severely from epidemics that included three massive contagious diseases: cholera, typhus and influenza. These infectious diseases were often fatal or left its victim weakened in their defense against other diseases. The main cause of these illnesses was attributed to the poor sanitation conditions and unpaved streets with ankle-deep mud.

The horse manure crisis had to be dealt with for nearly 35 years after 1894. The solution — at least until the new technology replaced the old — was dedicated civic reform, sanitation and good governance. The sub-zero neoliberals seem to want to skip over that and in a dishonest way.

The sanitation department in New York was created as the Department of Street Cleaning, but it wasn’t actually made effective until 1895. Only then did the people who worked for the department actually collect garbage and sweep the streets. These are some photographs, taken for Harper’s Weekly, of streets in New York in 1893.

White Wing cleaner

Civic reformer Colonel George E. Waring, Jr. (1833-1898) pioneered and conquered the horse manure crisis through civic measures — not the B.S. about new technology and the price mechanism. He instituted such current practices as recycling, street sweeping and a dedicated uniformed cleaning and collection force called the White Wings. Waring’s men cleared a shin-deep accumulation of waste across the city. He also kept domestic sewage separate from storm runoff.

Before and after. Note the clean up paved the way for both the street car and motorized vehicles.

Notice that there are plenty of horses still on the streets. The difference from 1894 was that the civic structure cleaned it up!

George Waring got ‘er done.

Winter Watch Takeaway

Good governance, getting rid of sub-zero officials (aka kakistocracy) and rolling up one’s sleeves still holds the key to quality of life — not waiting around for new technology and the excuse of invisible-hand “price mechanisms.” Further, as we showed in “The Predatory Conspiracy to Wipe Out Street Cars,” corruption and capture played a major role in the dominance of autos, which brought with them a whole new set of negative externalities.

7 Comments on Great Horse Manure Crisis of 1894 Solved Through Civic Reform Efforts

  1. In my medium size city, It is plain the Solid Waste and Liquid Waste Departments are the folks who give me real bang for my tax buck. Solid waste drives to my house once a week and picks up my trash and recyclables. Twice a year they send a rear loader to pick up all the green waste I can bag and stack on the curb. Liquid waste takes care of all the sewage.
    These are the people who do the heavy lifting to keep the city clean and running. They are the real hero’s of city services.

  2. The manure crisis was indeed fixed by technology. Today great big steaming gobs of Horseshit and Bullshit are shoveled directly down people’s throats via electronic media. No muss, no fuss. Problem solved.

  3. The sheeny and the ice man used horse-drawn vehicles during hubby’s 1950’s St. Paul childhood. In Montana we youth raced horses on unpaved streets. We made the decision to never live where horses are unwelcome. Cities are the real population problem in a 99% human-uninhabited nation (the fed alone holds 42% of US lands – tell me the US is not socialized). Or why does the US public suppose eternal petro flow is assured? Not a question of if but when. Horses will come in handy again when it all blows up as designed and intended.

  4. Yes, the decline of so-called infectious diseases had nothing to do with vaccines. It was all due to improved nutrition, sanitation and hygiene. By the time vaccination (stealth depopulation) was widely introduced, the incidence of “infectious” disease deaths had already declined by 90%.

    COVID=SARS-COV-2 was a hoax. But so were AIDS=HIV, polio and the Spanish Flu.

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