The Streets of Philadelphia
The Streets of Philadelphia
Problem. In the late eighteenth century city streets were filthy. With no regular trash collection or sewer system and with horses as the primary means of transportation, the streets were filled with household trash and manure. Medric-Louis-Elie Moreau de Saint-Mery, a French visitor to New York City, complained of “evil odors” and noted that “in 1791 the sewage around the wharfs was thought to have caused the epidemic of yellow fever at the time.” In smaller towns and villages the problems of public sanitation were not so severe, and in the colonial period hogs had found city streets to be promising grazing areas. But in the case of Philadelphia during the early national period, as it became a crowded city tied more to international commerce than to agriculture, its streets posed a health risk as flies and rats flourished on the garbage.
Commissioners. Philadelphia’s street commissioners, charged with keeping the public ways clear, hired scavengers to cart away trash and sort through it. It was a dirty job, but scavengers and street sweepers supplemented their salaries by occasionally finding valuables or by reusing what they found in the streets. In January 1783, facing a budget deficit, Philadelphia’s street commissioners decided to economize. They would find farmers in the surrounding rural areas to cart away manure and other trash. The farmers, the commissioners believed, would benefit by getting free manure, and the city would benefit by having its streets cleaned for free.
Failure. The plan did not work. Unlike the scavengers, the farmers did not clean the streets regularly. By August,
Philadelphia’s citizens were disgusted with the dead cats and dogs, chickens, and garbage from the marketplace. One newspaper printed a dialogue between a dead dog and cat lying in the gutter, discussing the condition of the street and the probable fate of the street commissioners. In 1784 the street commissioners abandoned the idea of allowing farmers to clean the streets in exchange for free manure and resumed the practice of paying scavengers to cart away the city’s trash.
"The Streets of Philadelphia." American Eras. . Encyclopedia.com. (January 23, 2019). https://www.encyclopedia.com/history/news-wires-white-papers-and-books/streets-philadelphia
"The Streets of Philadelphia." American Eras. . Retrieved January 23, 2019 from Encyclopedia.com: https://www.encyclopedia.com/history/news-wires-white-papers-and-books/streets-philadelphia
Encyclopedia.com gives you the ability to cite reference entries and articles according to common styles from the Modern Language Association (MLA), The Chicago Manual of Style, and the American Psychological Association (APA).
Within the “Cite this article” tool, pick a style to see how all available information looks when formatted according to that style. Then, copy and paste the text into your bibliography or works cited list.
Because each style has its own formatting nuances that evolve over time and not all information is available for every reference entry or article, Encyclopedia.com cannot guarantee each citation it generates. Therefore, it’s best to use Encyclopedia.com citations as a starting point before checking the style against your school or publication’s requirements and the most-recent information available at these sites:
Modern Language Association
The Chicago Manual of Style
American Psychological Association
- Most online reference entries and articles do not have page numbers. Therefore, that information is unavailable for most Encyclopedia.com content. However, the date of retrieval is often important. Refer to each style’s convention regarding the best way to format page numbers and retrieval dates.
- In addition to the MLA, Chicago, and APA styles, your school, university, publication, or institution may have its own requirements for citations. Therefore, be sure to refer to those guidelines when editing your bibliography or works cited list.