Paris twenty inches of snow fell in December, eight inches at one time and twelve at another. And this was a remarkable event in that city, although such storms are not uncommon here. For instance: on February 3, 1876, we had eleven inches of snow; on January 13, 1877, thirteen inches; and March 16th following, three and a half inches. In the winter which proved so unfortunate for our public officers, we had, on January 1, 1879, five inches of snow, and on the 16th thirteen inches more, or eighteen inches in all, and nearly as much as fell in Paris last winter. Between these storms we had freezing weather, the thermometer marking above the freezing-point only six times, and never rising above 38° in the hottest part of the day. So the cases are not altogether dissimilar. Let us see how much better the efficient street-cleaning department of Paris did its work than ours.
The following extracts are from the "Figaro" of December 10, 1879:
"'La Presse' says, 'A little less politics, and a little more sweeping.'
"'Le Mot d'Ordre': 'A little more sweeping! "La Presse" is right; let them sweep out. the head of the bureau.'
"'La Presse': 'We have lived in countries where snow is not an exception, as it is in Paris. In those places snow has never been an obstacle in getting about the streets. As soon as the snow begins to fall, they sweep it up and carry it away.'"
And "Figaro" adds: "All this is perfectly true; in London, they melt the snow instantly with jets of steam; in Berlin, where it snows almost constantly in winter, the street-cars do not cease running for an instant, owing to analogous measures, which keep the rails absolutely free. But we are in France, we are in Paris; and a practical spirit is, unfortunately, the only thing we lack."
How much all this sounds like the talk of our own newspapers!
The attacks of the press were so persistent, and the displeasure of the public so marked in various ways, that M. Alphand was summoned before the Municipal Council. In his speech, reported at length in "Le Figaro" of December 12, 1879, he referred in the following words to some of the statements made in the newspapers:
"Foreign countries have been mentioned; it has been stated that in them the snow is removed immediately. Brussels has been given as an example; now I myself was in that city three years ago, at the very time when they had a fall of snow; I declare to you that I did not see a single cart carrying away snow, and when it thawed people splashed along in a black mud twenty-five centimetres thick" (ten inches).
M. Alphand stated that there were at that time employed in removing snow 13,940 men, 3,900 horses, and 2,400 carts.
Imagine our Board of Apportionment supporting the hands of its public officers, in trying times, in this fashion!