The Horse Manure Problem: ‘By the late 1800s, large urban centers were ‘drowning in horse manure.’ — ‘The private automobile was widely hailed as an environmental savior’
Horses are lovely animals, but when crowded into cities they cause a variety of problems. 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 care. “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. [bold added]
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 population.”