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The Streets of Boston: Quincy Market – The Leslie Jones Collection at The Boston Public Library

Motorcars outnumber horses, but not by very many in this crowded scene from Boston’s Quincy Market dating from the early to mid-1920’s. Easily forgotten today is how long dobbin lingered in our big cities as a viable hauler of freight. Also forgotten amidst the concern about air pollution during last few decades are the accolades the automobile received in the early part of the last century as the solution to a pollution problem of another sort, that left behind by thousands of horses in the urban environment.

For instance, by one estimate, in 1880 between three and four million pounds of manure were deposited on the streets of New York and Brooklyn every day and that each horse produced about a quart of urine daily, which added up to around 40,000 gallons per day. In that context, the automobile and motor truck represented real progress.

Photo courtesy of the Boston Public Library, Leslie Jones Collection. Leslie Jones Collection © Copyright Leslie Jones.

5 responses to “The Streets of Boston: Quincy Market – The Leslie Jones Collection at The Boston Public Library

  1. A very good, and almost universally overlooked point. Years ago I read an article of perhaps… 1906? The title was “The Automobile, Savior of the Modern City.”

    I think NY also had to dispose of between 50 and 100 abandoned dead horses… every day!

  2. Horses were overworked and poorly cared for and frequently collapsed in the streets. I think fifteen thousand horse carcasses were left to rot on the streets of New York annually. On city streets, uncollected garbage, manure and rampant disease were common.

  3. Around the turn of the century,New York City had a fleet of
    electric trucks custom designed with the rear section in a U shape.
    The truck would back over the dead horse(being open in the
    U configuration). Straps would be lowered from a hoist.The horse
    would be strapped and raised,then taken to a rendering plant.

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