In 1893, 2.5 million pounds of horse manure filled NYC streets per day

Illustration for article titled In 1893, 2.5 million pounds of horse manure filled NYC streets per day

Think New York summers are pungent now? Imagine what it must've smelled like at the turn of the 20th century. Before the introduction of the automobile, horses were leaving about 2.5 million pounds of shit in the streets per day.

From the book The Big Roads by Earl Swift:

Crossing a street could be an unsavory affair. In New York city, by one estimate, horses left behind 2.5 million pounds of manure and sixty thousand gallons of urine every day. That amounts to roughly four hundred thousand tons of manure a year — enough to float three Nimitz-class nuclear aircraft carriers and a half-dozen navy destroyers. Forget the smell and mess; imagine the flies.


No, Mr. Swift. With all due respect, don't forget the smell. The flies are nothing. Imagine the 2.5 million pounds of shit being emptied into the streets each and every day.

[Correction: This post originally said "four hundred tons" rather than "four hundred thousand tons" because I was transcribing it from the deadtree version of the book (I know, I know) and made a sloppy error. I'm an idiot, as has been noted in the comments below.]

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Image via Getty: 28th March 1874: Lithograph of Maud S, the fastest trotter of the world has yet known, owned by Robert Bonner of New York and driven by trainer W W Bair


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Combine this with the volume of poorly treated or untreated sewage that New Yorkers generated at the time, and you have one seriously stinky city.

I honestly don't know how so many people could handle living so close together before modern technology arrived.

If we ever end up with a real time machine, I don't think going back to 1900 would be nearly as glamorous as people might think.