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.