Sanitary City: Urban Infrastructure in America from Colonial Times to the Present

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An invisible infrastructure defines a significant portion of the American urban experience, affecting everything from the quality of the water we drink to the frequency of our trash collection to the pressure of the flush in our toilets. In The Sanitary City: Urban Infrastructure in America from Colonial Times to the Present, Martin V. Melosi studies water supply, wastewater, and solid-waste-disposal systems in U.S. cities from the colonial era to the present day. Along the way, Melosi discusses not only changing technologies and the expanding population but also growing public health awareness and ecological theories. He shows how the social beliefs and scientific understandings that emerged over time influenced how Americans have viewed waste and sanitation in urban life and how they came to accept workable solutions to the problems of sanitation, water delivery, and waste removal.

Ambitious and comprehensive, The Sanitary City incorporates an exhaustive supply of sources, from popular accounts and journalism to scholarly histories in the fields of technology and urban growth to congressional reports and legislative studies. It will appeal to scholars, students, and professionals in environmental history, urban studies, the history of science and technology, public health, and American government.

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Editorial Reviews

Melosi (history, U. of Houston) offers a veritable tome on water supply, wastewater, and solid-waste disposal systems in American cities since before the idea of urban sanitation was developed in England and migrated to the New World. He draws on popular accounts and journalism, scholarly histories in technology and urban growth, congressional reports, legislative studies, and other sources. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780801861529
  • Publisher: Johns Hopkins University Press
  • Publication date: 12/1/1999
  • Series: Creating the North American Landscape Series
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 600
  • Product dimensions: 7.36 (w) x 10.29 (h) x 1.83 (d)

Meet the Author

Martin V. Melosi is a professor of history at the University of Houston.

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Table of Contents

Preface ix
Acknowledgments xi
Introduction 1
Part I. The Age of Miasmas From Colonial Times to 1880
1. Sanitation Practices in Pre-Chadwickian America 17
2. Bringing the Serpent's Tail into the Serpent's Mouth Edwin Chadwick and the "Sanitary Idea" in England 43
3. The "Sanitary Idea" Crosses the Atlantic 58
4. Pure and Plentiful From Protosystems to Modern Waterworks, 1830-1880 73
5. Subterranean Networks Wastewarter Systems as Works in Progress, 1830-1880 90
Part II. The Bacteriological Revolution 1880-1945
6. On the Cusp of the New Public Health Bacteriology, Environmental Sanitation, and the Quest for Permanence, 1880-1920 103
7. Water Supply as a Municipal Enterprise, 1880-1920 117
8. Battles at Both Ends of the Pipe Sewerage Systems and the New Health Paradigm, 1880-1920 149
9. The Thired Pillar of Sanitary Services The Rise of Public Refuse Management, 1880-1920 175
10. The Great Depression, World War II, and Public Works, 1920-1945 205
11. Water Supply as a National Issue The Federal Government, Expansion of Service, and the Threat of Pollution, 1920-1945 213
12. Sewerage, Treatment, and the "Broadening Viewpoint," 1920-1945 235
13. The "Orphan Child" of Sanitary Engineering Refuse Collection and Disposal, 1920-1945 261
Part III. The New Ecology 1945-2000
14. The Challenge of Suburban Sprawl and the "Urban Crisis in the Age of Ecology," 1945-1970 283
15. A Time of Unease The "Water Crisis" in an Effluent Society, 1945-1970 296
16. Beyond Their Limits Decaying Sewers, Overflows, and Foaming Plants, 1945-1970 320
17. Solid Waste as "Third Pollution," 1945-1970 338
18. From Earth Day to Infrastructure Crisis Forces Shaping the New Sanitary City 355
19. Beyond Broken Pipes and Tired Treatment Plants Water Supply, Wastewater, and Pollution since 1970 373
20. Out of State, Out of Mind The Garbage Crisis in America 395
Epilogue 423
Abbreviations 427
Notes 429
Bibliographical Essay 553
Figure and Photo Credits 563
Index 567
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