Pollution before the automobile
On one of the internet forums I read, someone suggested that we should all go back to horses and buggies like the Mennonites and Amish. She wasn't entirely serious but she wasn't entirely joking, either. The manure and the flies would be terrible problems, I reminded her.
How bad could it be? In cities, manure problems were horrendous, according to one source.
Of the three million horses in American cities at the beginning of the twentiety century, New York had some 150,000, the healthier ones each producing between twenty and twenty-five pounds of manure a day. These dumplings were numerous on every street, attracting swarms of flies and radiating a powerful stench. The ambiance was further debased by the presence on almost every block of stables filled with urine-saturated hay.Bettmann also notes that the "15,000 horses of Rochester, NY, produced enough manure in 1900 to cover an acre of ground with a layer 175 feet high." A few pages later, when he writes about Pittsburgh, he mentions the "steamy cesspools around the hitching posts where flies plagued man and beast and a vile odor abounded."
During dry spells, the pounding traffic refined the manure to a dust, which blew "from the pavement as a sharp piercing powder, to cover our clothes, ruin our furniture and blow up into our nostrils."
Source: The Good Old Days -- They were Terrible! by Otto L. Bettmann. Published by Random House, New York, 1974.
No, I don't want to revert to the horse and buggy. I think I'll just practice conservative driving techniques.