Sunday, January 01, 2012

Fly Problems in the Good Old Days

Typhoid in the Spanish American war

Occasionally, I hear someone waxing nostalgic about the good old days, and I admit that I, too, sometimes grow wistful for simpler times.

However, I don't feel a deep yearning to return to animal-powered transportation -- such as horses and buggies. They didn't create air pollution problems like cars do, but the manure on the streets was a huge sanitation problem. In warm weather, street manure was a prime breeding ground for flies as well as a source of stench. Pedestrians had to watch their step at all times, and in wet weather, they ran the danger of being splashed with raw sewage from the street. (I'm not exaggerating.)

I don't get nostalgic about outhouses, either, having had the joy of using one at school through the eighth grade. People like to decorate their bathrooms with cute privy pictures and to send around amusing e-mail poems about outhouses, but those outdoor toilets really weren't very pleasant places. They were cold in the winter, and in warm weather, well... they smelled bad and the flies liked them.

The following is from a health textbook of the 1920s:

In the Spanish-American War, about one out of every five of our volunteer soldiers had typhoid fever, and it was found that the fly was one of the principal agents in spreading the disease. In Jacksonville, Florida, flies used to cause a great deal of typhoid, until a campaign for the screening of outside closets reduced the typhoid death rate of the city to less than one fourth of what it had been.

Typhoid fever is by no means the only disease that is carried by flies. Studies made by the Association for Improving the Condition of the Poor in New York City showed that babies which were carefully protected from flies had only one half as much diarrheal disease (summer complaint) as babies not protected in this way.

Source: Healthy Living (p. 264), a textbook by Dr. Charles-Edward Amory Winslow, published in 1924 by the Charles E., Merrill Company of New York and Chicago.


Collagemama said...

So true! Sadly, much of the world hasn't progressed in the sewage and toilets department.

Genevieve said...

That is true. And much of the world still doesn't have many screens on the windows, either.

mojack said...

Air pollution is a very serious issue in the world which requires to be discussing by all countries for the sake of human beings. If we don’t take necessary step for managing environment and improving air quality than we will see various harmful effects in future. We can control air pollution level with natural manner by using plantation activities. So we should support Air clean societies and organization. PALS is a ‘Pure Air Lovers Society’ working for preventing air pollution.
For more detail visit:

Elaine said...

And anyone who has tried to sleep on a summer night after a 108-degree day knows that the advent of home air conditioning has made a huge difference in our lives. My folks recollected one of the elder generation, up at midnight, eating some pieces of fried chicken 'before they could go bad.' And my dad's oldest brother died at age 18 of tuberculosis--an agonizing death. Every so often I receive one of those 'good old days' emails, and I respond by scoffing. Modern technology may have drawbacks, but in general I feel blessed!

Genevieve said...

I totally agree, Elaine, and I'm also glad to live in the age of the internet.

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CONTENTMENT: Keep your heart free from hate, your mind from worry, live simply, expect little, give much, sing often, pray always, forget self, think of others and their feelings, fill your heart with love, scatter sunshine. These are the tried links in the golden chain of contentment.
(Author unknown)

IT IS STILL BEST to be honest and truthful; to make the most of what we have; to be happy with simple pleasure; and to be cheerful and have courage when things go wrong.
(Laura Ingalls Wilder, 1867-1957)

Thanks for reading.