Thursday, August 17, 2017

The Great Manure Crisis of 1894

Hello there. My name is Cara Grandle. I'm honored to be included here on HHH. I'm looking forward to getting to know you extra-cool, history-lovin’, fiction-reading folks.

But even more I'm looking forward to having a place to share all the random historical facts that are so intriguing, enlightening, and entertaining. My children will thank you for sparing them.

And when I say random, I mean random.

So, let's start with manure. Picture me laughing. Why on earth would my first post be about this?

Did you know that in 1894 The Times predicted, "In fifty years London will be buried under nine feet of manure"? The same was said to be true of New York City.

All those horse-drawn carts, buggies, busses, hansom cabs that we like to write about in our books produced a staggering amount of waste.

It is estimated that in the late 19th century horses transported 120,000 passengers each day, utilizing New York's horse population of 100,000.

There were empty lots of land used to put all the muck piled forty feet high. Head shaking.

Add to that the working drays pulling delivery trucks and other work related horse-powered operation and you have a huge stinking problem.

Yes, I said stinking.

Can you imagine? Each horse produces between fifteen and thirty-five pounds of manure EACH day.

That's a pile heavier than most one-year-olds. For each horse. Every. Single. Day.

This historical tidbit makes me think differently about all our beautifully clad heroines holding their skirts out of the dirt to keep from soiling the hems of their dresses or being careful to not ruin their slippers.

It wasn't mud folks. 

The manure problem lead to the first international urban planning conference in New York in 1898. The conference was supposed to last a week but it was cancelled after three days when no solution could be found.

How was the problem solved? It wasn't really. A man named Henry Ford came along with a form of motorized transport sold at an affordable price.

The first car was marketed as being a solution to the manure pollution problem. Ironic, eh?

In fourteen years’ time, horses were replaced and motorized vehicles were the main source of transportation and carriage, effectively ending The Great Manure Crisis.

For some time after, people were known to quote 'The Great Horse Manure Crisis of 1894', to inspire hope in urging people not to despair when facing insurmountable problems, because something will inevitably turn up.

But can you imagine? A city buried under nine feet of manure? Another reason to be glad we live in this day and age. Is there anything you are grateful for about living in 2017 versus another time?

I can’t wait to hear your answers.

CaraGrandle is a Historical Romance Novelist who prefers to write about the early settlers of the Pacific Northwest. She is represented by the Steve Laube Agency. Cara leads the author4TheAuthor writers group on Facebook, home to 185 writers. Together they're pressing back on busy and making a space for their dreams. Cara hosts a Writers Encouragement show weekly on Periscope. The show is on Tuesday mornings at 9:00am PST. Cara's Periscope show includes live, interactive author-interviews with leading Christian fiction novelists, editors, publicist and agents under the handle @CaraGrandle.

Cara is currently out on submission. Follower her journey on her Facebook author page. 


  1. I never thought about a manure crisis happening. Thanks for this historical tidbit. Growing up in the country and with the wind just right an individual would know when the farmers was spreading their manure on their fields for fertilizer.
    Welcome to HHH, Cara.

    1. I still live in farm country. So between the chicken farm and the dairy we get pretty tolerant to the stench. I suppose we should consider it the smell of a healthy agricultural business.

    2. That manure did come in handy to keep the fire hydrants from freezing in the winter. They would bury the hydrants in the horse manure.

    3. I didn't know that Adele. More cool facts.

  2. Hi Cara! Welcome! I never realized such a problem existed either, but I'd think skirts would have gotten shorter a lot sooner than they did! Reading your post reminded me of our trip to Mackinac Island. I'd never dreamed such a beautiful place could have that stinky problem, but it had a slight one, which would have been much worse if the horses weren't followed by manure trucks cleaning up after them all day! At the time, I pitied the people who had the job of cleaning up after the horses.

    1. Shorter skirts for sure. That makes me giggle. Of course the whole bathing once a week probably made it so that their sense of smell was already overworked.

  3. That's something I never thought of! Great post, Cara. It's interesting how the solution didn't involve horses or the handling of manure at all.

    1. This intrigued me too. I wonder how many inventions solve problems, only to turn around and create a new problem that someone has to invent something to fix. (Whoo. say that three times fast.) Pretty fascinating.

  4. I love this post! Who would have ever guessed? :) It's such fun to see you here, Cara. Thanks for sharing a unique historical tidbit and for making me laugh.

  5. Great post, Cara! It's a piece of history that's been "pushed aside". LOL! I never had given it a thought. Thanks for sharing!

  6. OH. MY. GOODNESS!! Cara, this is a royal hoot, and I absolutely LOVE IT!! Not the manure, of course, but the history behind it and that you chose it as your very first blog here -- TOO funny!!

    What am I grateful for??? INDOOR TOILETS, electricity, and running water!!

    VERY fun post, my friend!


    1. Your so good to me Julie. And amen and yes to running water and toilets. Even when we go camping we have more amenities.

  7. Great article, Cara! Informative, FRIGHTENING, yet hilarious! :)
    -Audra York

  8. Welcome to HHH, Cara. Great way to introduce a historical topic that affected so many lives, yet no one ever talks about. I pity the people who lived near the empty lots that were used for storage. During the winter, we have mountains of snow piled up at the end of parking lots, and the city carts away the road snow and piles it on oodles of acres on the outskirts. Now if I imagine that those piles were manure instead...well, no...I really don't wish to think about it.

  9. Great post, Cara! A person could do a lot with this tidbit in their stories. ;) My must have is refrigeration. Lived four months in a tent once and that was what I missed the most!

  10. I like random obscure facts! Hey this was fun! Thanks for an informative tidbit but I dont have any idea how I will weave that into my next conversation!