Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 39.djvu/336

From Wikisource
Jump to: navigation, search
This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.

ings and sheds, which were filthy and in some cases not sewered, the appliances used being inadequate and primitive, and the methods, especially from their publicity, indecent and demoralizing; that cattle were driven through the public streets in populous quarters with great danger to life; that the plumbing and drainage of dwellings, private as well as tenement houses, were extremely defective, allowing sewer-gas to freely escape into the apartments; that offensive odors from gas, fat-melting, and other manufacturing establishments were not uncommon; that stables were generally without proper drainage and very offensive; and that stable manure was allowed to accumulate, was removed irregularly and in an offensive manner, and was stored for sale in the vicinity of dwellings; and that the removal and disposal of offal, dead animals, and night-soil were conducted in a primitive manner disgraceful to a civilized city. It was also reported that there was no proper supervision and care by public authority of contagious diseases or to prevent their spread; that there was no public inspection of the food-supply of the city, and especially of milk, meat, and fish; that there were no regulations or inspections for the purpose of insuring to new buildings proper light, ventilation, and drainage, or to secure the correction of defects and the proper cleanliness of buildings already occupied as human habitations; in short, that the public health received no intelligent consideration from the municipal government, and that the demoralization incident to filthy streets and dwellings and to other unsanitary conditions threatened the material prosperity and the moral and social welfare of the city. Such was the situation in general, as graphically described by the Council of Hygiene, when the Metropolitan Board of Health commenced in March, 1866, the great work of sanitary reform and improvement. Sanitary reform is of slow growth; for every improvement is an attack more or less important upon the prejudices or the property of a considerable number of citizens and tax-payers, and is, therefore, vigorously resisted. The action of the sanitary authorities of New York has been conservative and conciliatory, but firmly and steadily progressive. By persuasion and explanation important sanitary changes and improvements have been inaugurated, and, when approved by the common sense of the more intelligent and public-spirited, have been completed by legal compulsion; sanitary rules and regulations have been constantly enforced by an expert and vigilant corps of educated inspectors; and thus by a faithful and persistent public service, and without excitement or startling innovations, New York has been gradually relieved of the nuisances which afflicted its people and threatened its prosperity a quarter of a century since. For several years the Croton water supply, so important and essential to the health