|A typical “Manure Vault” in a Chicago alley in 1918.|
In the late 1890s, Chicago had about 83,000 horses living and working in the city. On average, one horse creates between 40 to 50 pounds of manure a day at 40 pounds per day, which equals 3,320,000 pounds or 1,660 tons of horse manure to dispose of per day. The sheer volume made what was a nuisance in small towns and a crisis in large metropolitan areas.The manure was smelly, dirty, and attracted flies that spread diseases to humans. When it dried up and became dust, the breeze would spread the manure for miles, polluting the air and sickened Chicagoans. Some of it was shipped to area farms for agricultural use. Some were mixed in with cement as a binder and used to pave streets and such. Still, there was too much manure to efficiently dispose of.
With the upcoming World's Columbian Exposition scheduled to open in 1893, Chicago made the cleanup of manure a critical priority in 1892. It would be embarrassing for the city to have filthy streets when Chicago would be under worldwide scrutiny.
One strategy to deal with all the manure was the underground manure vault to diminish the problem. Manure was bailed and transported out of the city, along with manure being incinerated. The ultimate solution to the manure problem was just beginning in the U.S.
In 1893 Frank Duryea was reported to have made the first horseless carriage trip on U.S. roads in Springfield, Massachusetts. He traveled approximately 600 yards before engine problems forced him to stop and make repairs. He went on to found the first U.S. car company with his brother, the Duryea Motor Wagon Company.
By 1900 there were only 377 automobiles registered with the Board of Examiners of Operators of Automobiles. The Comparative Wheel Tax Statement shows that in 1916 there were 46,662 horse-drawn vehicles and 65,651 automobiles. By 1940 there were fewer than 2,000 horse-drawn vehicles and over 600,000 automobiles. The fastest changes happened in the 1920s.
|Today, horses are equipped with bags to collect their manure before it hits the Chicago streets.|
Compiled by Dr. Neil Gale, Ph.D.