The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 86, July 1982 - April, 1983

Book Reviews

the production of the series has been good from the beginning, and
Volume VIII maintains that tradition.
Lamar University ADRIAN ANDERSON
Garbage in the Cities: Refuse, Reform, and the Environment, I88o-
1980. By Martin V. Melosi. (College Station, Tex.: Texas AcM
University Press, 1981. Pp. xvi+ 68. Preface, acknowledgments,
introduction, tables, figures, illustrations, bibliography, index.
$21.50.)
Since the founding of the earliest cities there has existed a need to
discard waste. It is a part of city metabolism. Only in our own time,
however, has the disposal of garbage and other trash become a recog-
nized problem. As Mayor Louie Welch of Houston once lamented,
"You know, when it comes to garbage, people want us to pick it up,
but they don't want us to put it down again, especially if it is near
their house." (Houston Post, May 21, 1970). Acknowledgement of and
reaction to the problem, particularly in the eastern American cities, is
the central issue of this unique book.
The chaos of the booming industrial cities in the last years of the
nineteenth century made the problem obvious. The stench of the
streets, the unsightly piles of trash, and a belief that malodorous dumps
caused the spread of disease brought a demand for change from pro-
gressive reformers. Their protests joined with the city beautiful move-
ment to bring about a recognition that refuse was a problem and that
cities should do something about it. The older attitude of "out of sight,
out of mind" was no longer acceptable.
Organization of street-cleaning departments and experiments with
pick-up and disposal techniques resulted. Elements of the problem
changed, however, as the twentieth century unfolded. Extensive paving
of streets made mechanization possible. Incineration, reduction, and
sanitary land fills were tried. Automobiles replaced horses and substi-
tuted one kind of pollution for another. The automobile threw its dis-
charge into the air. In contrast, a healthy city horse, which could pro-
duce over twenty pounds of manure and twenty gallons of urine each
day, dumped its pollution on the streets. The most important change,
however, is reflected in the quantity of solid refuse produced per per-
son. The amount increased from almost three pounds per day in 1920o
to eight pounds per day in 1980.
Techniques for dealing with waste have not changed much since the
first decades of the twentieth century. Melosi's focus on that period,

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Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 86, July 1982 - April, 1983. Austin, Texas. The Portal to Texas History. http://texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth101209/. Accessed July 23, 2014.