“Their money did not stink.”

I don’t have anything to add to the Great Sanitation Throwdown, but I have to note that basically everywhere in the USA we’ve got it pretty good whether our sanitation is handled by authoritarian city-sponsored monopolies or heartless and noisy capitalists. Consider turn-of-the-century Baltimore:

“The population explosion [between 1880 and 1900] exposed a scandalous civic dereliction: the nation’s seventh-largest city was the biggest without a sewer system. The low-lying areas of the city reeked. Outbreaks of typhus and yellow fever were common. Even cholera. Experts had despaired over waste-management and public health issues since the 1850s, but the ruling Democratic machine took no action. There was a reason: key leaders shared ownership in lucrative companies that monopolized the twin businesses of cleaning cesspools and processing waste. They made money, and their money did not stink.”

-Antero Pietila, Not in my Neighborhood: How Bigotry Shaped a Great American City. Chicago: Ivan R. Dee, 2010. (9)

The Jones Falls River, which ran right down the middle of Baltimore, got so bad that between 1910 and 1915 they buried the last two miles of it; a good stretch of it is now directly under Interstate 83. (I had a good time looking for the tunnels when I first moved here.) After a huge fire ravaged the downtown in 1904, Baltimore finally got a sewer system. New York City, by comparison, started on its modern sewer system around 1850. So there’s your Baltimore fact for the day.

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