New York's Horse Manure Problem of 1894

Gunnar Larson g at
Thu Jan 4 01:32:17 PST 2024

The Horse Manure Problem of 1894

The 15 to 30 pounds of manure produced daily by each beast multiplied by
the 150,000+ horses in New York city resulted in more than three million
pounds of horse manure per day that somehow needed to be disposed of.
That’s not to mention the daily 40,000 gallons of horse urine.

In other words, cities reeked. As Morris says, the “stench was
omnipresent.” Here are some fun bits from his article:
Urban streets were minefields that needed to be navigated with the greatest

“Crossing sweepers” stood on street corners; for a fee they would clear a
path through the mire for pedestrians. Wet weather turned the streets into
swamps and rivers of muck, but dry weather brought little improvement; the
manure turned to dust, which was then whipped up by the wind, choking
pedestrians and coating buildings.

. . . even when it had been removed from the streets the manure piled up
faster than it could be disposed of . . . early in the century farmers were
happy to pay good money for the manure, by the end of the 1800s stable
owners had to pay to have it carted off. As a result of this glut . . .
vacant lots in cities across America became piled high with manure; in New
York these sometimes rose to forty and even sixty feet.

We need to remind ourselves that horse manure is an ideal breeding ground
for flies, which spread disease. Morris reports that deadly outbreaks of
typhoid and “infant diarrheal diseases can be traced to spikes in the fly

Comparing fatalities associated with horse-related accidents in 1916
Chicago versus automobile accidents in 1997, he concludes that people were
killed nearly seven times more often back in the good old days. The reasons
for this are straightforward:

. . . horse-drawn vehicles have an engine with a mind of its own. The
skittishness of horses added a dangerous level of unpredictability to
nineteenth-century transportation. This was particularly true in a bustling
urban environment, full of surprises that could shock and spook the
animals. Horses often stampeded, but a more common danger came from horses
kicking, biting, or trampling bystanders. Children were particularly at
Falls, injuries, and maltreatment also took a toll on the horses
themselves. Data cited by Morris indicates that, in 1880, more than 3 dozen
dead horses were cleared from New York streets each day (nearly 15,000 a
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