Open main menu

Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 18.djvu/612

This page has been validated.
594
THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

dust-receptacles attended to oftener by entering into a private contract with the dustmen; but those whose means are straitened, or who can not afford this luxury, must be content to endure their pestilence-breeding bins, with all the foul odors and health-depressing influences attached to them, until such times as it may please the dustmen to give them a dirty clean-out, the visits of these gentlemen being, like those of the angels, "few and far between," in the poor and crowded districts of this great city.

I have frequently been told by members of the working classes that it is no unusual thing for the dust-bins in their neighborhood to remain unattended to for months at a time; and, when they appeal to the dustmen in charge of any passing cart, they are either laughed at or met by a volley of abuse for their pains.

Surely such a state of things, which is easy of remedy, should not any longer be permitted.

Yours truly,

G. Stanley Murray, M. D.

The italics in this letter are mine. The writer shows his imperfect acquaintance with the necessities and difficulties of the public service, in the last paragraph, when he writes, "which is easy of remedy." To be sure, the remedy seems plain enough to any one who has never tried to make his own plan work practically. All that is needed is a few carts, horses, and men, with system, energy, intelligence, and industry—men with the latter qualities, as is well known, being exceedingly plentiful in the world, and their services dirt-cheap. A writer in the "Contemporary Review" for October, 1879, page 294, Henry J. Miller by name, representing himself as a poor man appealing to the upper classes for aid in bettering the condition of the poor, makes the following suggestion in his article "Lazarus to Dives," which, as an off-hand solution of a great problem, equals anything in our own daily journals: "Furnish" every householder "with two boxes, varying in size according to the dimensions of his domicile: one to form a receptacle for dust, cinders, old rags, broken bottles, and what is generically known as 'dry dirt'; and the other for decayed vegetables, the entrails of fish, and that kind of refuse that we rather uneuphoniously call 'muck.' Such boxes to be taken away once a week, and empty ones left in their stead. As a corollary to this, forbid him, under penalties, to continue his present practice of pitching derelicts into the street, as the readiest means of being quit of them; and make him responsible for the cleanliness of his door-steps and the pavement in front of his dwelling."

I have but one more subject to touch upon. In the spring of 1878 a determined effort was made by a public-spirited citizen to have the Health Commissioners of this city punished because they did not drive all offensive businesses out of the city. The attack upon them failed, and it failed for the same reason that similar attacks have failed, and will fail elsewhere, and that is, because the trades classed as offensive constitute an important part of the industries of a great city, and their banishment would strike a terrible blow at her commercial prosperity.