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Posts about Newspapers

April 4, 1920: To doff or not to doff?

Posted by: Ben Welter Updated: April 9, 2013 - 3:11 PM
 
An enterprising Minneapolis Tribune reporter scoured downtown elevators to blow the lid off an unfortunate trend.
 

“If He Doffs Hat When Woman
Enters Elevator He’s Single”

 
  These hatless bellhops rode the elevators at the Nicollet Hotel in about 1924. (Photo courtesy mnhs.org)
 
Lift Elevators Say Most Minneapolis Men Are Negligent About This Courtesy; Easterners More Punctilious; Women Don’t Expect It, Say Business Men.
 
Is there any real test to determine whether a man is married or single? Can this important fact about a stranger be discovered without the embarrassment of asking him? Hiram N. Wadleigh, veteran elevator operator in the Federal building, says there is.
 
If a man takes off his hat with precision and definiteness the minute a woman enters his car, Mr. Wadleigh says that man is certainly single. But if the male passenger hesitates and only removes his hat when he has made sure the woman is pretty, then, Wadleigh insists, in 99 cases out of 100 the man is married.
 
“Sometimes the married men have a good excuse for hesitating when there’s no hair on the top of their heads,” explains Mr. Wadleigh. “But usually those with heavy locks act just about the same way.”
 
However good this test may be, elevator operators in Minneapolis agree that most men here do not remove their hats in public elevators when women are fellow passengers.
 
In hotels the average is considerably higher than in public buildings, but even in the hotels men tend to retain their headgear.
 
Hat removers and those who don’t are split about fifty-fifty at the Hotel Dyckman, according to Donald Hartz, elevator operator. “Eastern men usually take off their hats automatically when they come in, whether a woman is present or not,” he said.
 
The only man the elevator operator has real contempt for, according to Mr. Hartz, is he who vacillates between removing his hat or not and finally sheepishly decides to take it off.
 
Hattie Malick, elevator starter at the Radisson, thinks she encounters the highest average of polite men in the city, but many are negligent even there, she says. In public elevators, men may do as they please, she believes, but a hotel elevator to her is the same as a drawing room, and men should remove their hats. She can’t just explain the difference between a hotel lobby and an elevator, but thinks there is one, nevertheless.
 
Matt Demand, courteous operator of the postoffice elevator, believes there is a difference between hotel elevators and those in public buildings, and that women do not expect men to remove their hats in the latter case.
 
“Most men pay no attention to women in this elevator,” he declared. “And the women don’t seem to expect any. They are usually here on business, and expect to be treated in a business and not in a social way.”
 
Women prominent in Minneapolis are sharply divided on the question of whether men should remove their hats in public elevators. They agree that in a hotel elevator hats should always come off.
 
 
  This is Mrs. Manley Fosseen -- Carrie to her friends and family -- in 1936. (Photo courtesy mnhs.org)
Mrs. Manley Fosseen, newly elected Republican delegate at large, thinks that woman, having attained political equality with man, should expect only business-like treatment from him in business places. The elevator, she thinks, is like a hotel lobby or a street car.
 
The one discourtesy which woman cannot forgive a man in an elevator is smoke, says Mrs. Fosseen.
 
Mrs. Carolyn B. Kinney, woman member of the Board of Education, holds a brief for the group of women with the opposite opinion.
 
“I like very much to see men remove their hats in any kind of elevator,” declared Mrs. Kinney. “And no matter how much political and business equality woman attain, I shall continue to derive pleasure from display of the little courtesy. It would be a shame if we should lose the old spirit of chivalry which has done much for both men and women.”
 
Men, asked about their opinion of the matter, unanimously decided that in business elevators doffing of hats is rather silly.
 
“When I am with my wife, of course I take mine off,” explained Postmaster Purdy, “partly because she is there to nudge me if I don’t. But in strictly business elevators I can’t see a great deal of advantage in following the custom. I don’t believe most women expect it.”
 
From a matter of space economy, Mr. Purdy said, it might be to advantage for women to take off their hats.
 
 
The wearing of hats was probably de riguere for well-heeled men passing through the lobby of the Dyckman Hotel in 1933, when this photo was taken. (Image courtesy of mnhs.org)

 

Jan. 1, 1889: The life of a night editor

Posted by: Ben Welter Updated: December 19, 2012 - 10:26 AM
 
More than a century ago, “all ‘copy’ of every description” passed through the hands of the Minneapolis Tribune’s night editor. It was a critical job in the production of the morning newspaper. But the workload was heavy, the pressure relentless, the technology primitive and the hours abominable. Here’s our third installment of the Tribune’s two-page spread on “TO MAKE A PAPER.”
 

THE NIGHT EDITOR.

 
The Problem of Seven Columns of Matter and Five Columns of Hole.
 
After the managing editor has compared the morning TRIBUNE with its contemporaries, has had a consultation with the business and editorial departments, and has mapped out in detail the size and character of the paper to be issued on the following morning, he is supposed to go home, and the detail of his plans is executed by the night editor, who is at his desk by 7 o’clock p.m. and is on duty until the papers are in the hands of the carriers. All “copy" of every description passes through the hands of the night editor for final supervision. After receiving his orders from the managing editor the night editor must be ready to take up the different threads of the work. Often the proprietors and editors are home or out of town when matters that may favorably or injuriously affect the policy or pocketbook of the paper must be instantly decided. The managing editor having ascertained the amount of advertising and determined the size of the paper, the first thing that the night editor does when he comes on duty is to assign reading space to the departments. If it is to be a seven-column eight-page TRIBUNE, and there are 24 columns of advertising, after ascertaining the needs of the departments and the allotment of space would be made something like this:
 
Telegraph, 10 columns.
Sporting, 1½ columns.
St. Paul, 3 columns.
Editorial, 4 columns.
Markets, 4 columns.
Railroads, 1½ columns.
Political, 2 columns.
City news, 6 columns.
Advertising, 24 columns.

This schedule would, of course, vary from day to day and must be enlarged when the 20-page SUNDAY TRIBUNE is issued.
 
 
  "THE NIGHT EDITOR AT WORK."
Having assigned the space, the night editor is held responsible for seeing that no department exceeds the space allotted and is made responsible for the issuance of the paper in time for the earliest mail trains and carriers. During the night the night editor must also answer all queries addressed to the managing editor and must often take the responsibility of ordering or declining news of importance. It often happens that when 10 columns have been allotted to telegraph, that something unexpected occurs of so much importance that it is necessary to publish 15 columns of telegraph. The night editor must then revise his schedule and must always keep the printers supplied with copy and at the same time must see that no more copy is sent than will fill the space.
 
When the last piece of copy has been put into type, about 2:55 a.m., it is the duty of the night editor to then go to the composing room and superintend the “make-up,” which is under the direction of the foreman. The most important piece of news must be selected, and given the most important position in the paper. The night editor must instantly dictate on which page and on what part of the page each important department or item must be placed. Often it is necessary to rewrite a head, or cut out a paragraph from an article after it is in type and this must be done quickly and with judgment while reading from the type. Again, after the type is all in place, and the pages are made up with due regard to symmetry and mechanical effect, important news is suddenly received. This necessitates quick work, and a rapid tearing up and re-arrangement of the pages.
 
During the night the TRIBUNE night editor receives on an average 100 messages over the TRIBUNE special wires offering news for publication. This news must be accepted or declined according to its importance to the TRIBUNE constituency, as viewed by the judgment of the editor. The news bulletins as received read like this:
 
1.     Washington – Miss Francis Willard asks Mrs. Cleveland to continue her crusade against the bustle – 200.
2.     Boston – Suicide and double murder – 150.
3.     New York – Mayor Hewitt writes a letter to Gov. Hill criticizing Cleveland – 500.
 
The figures denote the number of words that the correspondent desires to send. After weight the bulletins in the seat of judgment, the answer is sent. “Yes, No. 1,” or “Send 250 words, No. 3.”
After the city editor and the heads of other departments have gone home, it is sometimes necessary to prepare news or make editorial comment on that received late, and this work is done by the night editor.
 
When it is finally decided which articles go into the paper and which are to be left out, and the last page has gone from the stereotyping room to the press room, the night editor fills out the blank spaces in his printed report to the managing editor. The report comprises the columns of different classes of matter, the hour that typesetting commenced, the hour that the last piece of copy was received from the several departments, the amount of type set during the night, the time that the last page was sent to the stereotyping room the number of editions printed, the amounted of advertising or reading matter left out, etc.
 
When this is done, at 4 o’clock a.m. or later, the night editor is ready to go home.
 
 

Jan. 1, 1889: What does a managing editor do?

Posted by: Ben Welter Updated: November 30, 2012 - 4:16 PM
 
More than a century ago, the managing editor at a “great morning paper like the Tribune” had a great many responsibilities. He spent a few hours each day just opening mail, dictating letters, fending off job applicants and pacifying “cranks,” all without the aid of a BlackBerry. The Tribune explains:
 

THE MANAGING EDITOR.

 
Some of the Duties and Pleasures of His Position Briefly Outlined.
 
The managing editor, if he would serve his employers and the public well, must have absolute authority in his domain. His orders must be as instantly and unhesitatingly obeyed as though he were a general in command on the field of battle. He has under his direction hundreds of correspondents and sub-editors, and his field of conquest is the world.
 
To give an intelligent idea of the detail of the work of the managing editor of a newspaper like the TRIBUNE would require a summary of the work performed by all other editors and employes as given in the subdivisions of this article, for a managing editor, other than in name, must be thoroughly familiar with every department of newspaper publication, executive, editorial and mechanical. It is not only necessary to know how to plan his own work, and the work of others, but it is equally necessary to know whether the work has been expeditious, economically and intelligently performed.
 
The managing editor is responsible for the general excellence of the newspaper to which he contributes his services. He can in his profession have no friends or favorites, and while always insistent that justice be done, must see to it that everybody renders the best service that the compensation paid could be supposed to procure.
 
In the TRIBUNE office the managing editor arrives at his office about 9 o’clock a.m., and first consults the editor-in-chief and “the old man” in the business department. From them he receives instructions and suggestions as to the policy and plans for the day’s paper. An hour or two is then spent in carefully reading the morning issue and in comparing the work in every department with that to be found in other newspapers. By 11 o’clock special telegraphic directions have been sent out to perhaps a dozen correspondents telling them how to “cover” the important news events of the day that can be anticipated. From 11 to 12:30 the stenographer and typewriters are kept busy putting in proper form from 10 to 50 rapidly dictated letters. After lunch there is usually a delegation of callers that occupy the time for an hour or more. College graduate applicants for editorial positions have to be told that “there are no vacancies;” spring poets have to be gently but firmly dealt with; cranks have to be pacified; explanations have to be made to the persistent man with a “communication” or the woman with a “grievance.” The politician has to be impressed with the fact that all utterances and actions are judged solely from the news standpoint, and that as the TRIBUNE is not an organ the interview with himself that he has so kindly written out must go into the waste basket.
 
 
  "POPULAR IDEA OF A MANAGING EDITOR."
About 3 o’clock comes the serious work of laying the foundations for the plans for the morning paper. There is a consultation with the city editor, the editorial writers and the heads of departments. It is decided as far as possible which of the many items of news shall be given chief prominence, and the editor in chief is informed of the principal news to be published, that he may direct the proper editorial comment to be made. Then comes an hour or two more of opening mail, dictating of telegrams and letters, the rapid reading of manuscripts and the perfecting of the details of the plans.
 
The Washington, New York and Chicago special correspondents are consulted by wire and instructions are given. Then the 200 or 300 Northwestern correspondents are given attention, and a suggestion is offered here and there as needed. About 6 o’clock the advertising solicitors have made their returns to the counting-room, and then it is decided whether tomorrow’s TRIBUNE shall be an 8, 10, 12, 16, 20, 24 or 28 page paper.
 
Incidental to all of this work there is a constant supervision of the expense account. The instructions must be such that there are no unnecessary expenses incurred in the preparation or transmission of news. The maximum of news must be served at a minimum of expense. The managing editor must have full authority to order to be spent $1,000 for the securing of a single piece of good exclusive news, and absolute authority to discharge any person who incurs unnecessary expense in securing unimportant or worthless news.
 
At 6 or 7 o’clock at night the work of issuing the morning TRIBUNE has been so well planned that the detail of execution can safely be trusted to subordinates. Then the managing editor goes home and returns to the office later in the night to see that instructions are being carried out. When he does retire, (for his day’s work has neither beginning nor end) it is with the consciousness that he will be held responsible for any mechanical defect in the paper or seeming lack of judgment in collecting, displaying or commenting upon its news. If there are any “scoops;” if there is a lack of sympathy between the editorial and news columns; if some offensive paragraph has escaped his blue pencil; if a correspondent has failed to do his duty or follow instructions; if his judgment in “O K-ing” certain articles has not been infallible; if a subscriber “kicks” or an advertiser is indignant, then the managing editor is blamed. The chief and the old man [the business manager] both take the TRIBUNE and read it every day.
 
On the other hand, if the TRIBUNE, as it always does, has two or three pieces of interesting and exclusive news, if its features are bright, its make up attractive, its editorials timely and appropriate; its influence great, its news service unexcelled and its earning capacity large, then the managing editor is sometimes complimented in a way which leads him to hope that his salary will be raised sometime.    

Jan. 1, 1889: How a great newspaper is made

Posted by: Ben Welter Updated: November 20, 2012 - 9:21 PM
 
 
  Part of a stereoscopic image of the Tribune building from about 1887. (Photo courtesy mnhs.org)
On the first day of 1889, the Minneapolis Tribune devoted two full pages that explained to readers “how a great morning paper” was made. The lengthy piece includes a lot of chest thumping. But it also features surprisingly amusing and incisive descriptions of the men – and one "editress" – who produced the paper. The business manager is described as “a grasping individual of stern and unbending demeanor.” The editor-in-chief is seen as both a “hard working man of keen and comprehensive intellect” and “a brainless dude who does nothing but draw his salary and smoke expensive cigars in a gorgeously appointed office.” The telegraph editor “can grasp detail and work with rapidity and accuracy.” The reporter is no fool and his “knowledge of human nature is superior.” More than a dozen delightful illustrations break up all that gray type.

I’ll post a few highlights tonight, and add more as time and energy allow. Be warned: A ponderous introduction, typical of the era, takes a while to find its focus. But it’s worth plowing through, if only for historical perspective, plus a detailed description of how many letters – 458,528, to be precise – were used in a single issue of The TRIBUNE. 
 

TO MAKE A PAPER.

The Process in All Its Details Fully and Completely Explained.
 
How a Great Morning paper Like the Tribune Gets out Its Editions from Day to Day.
 
Especial Work Done by the Editors Who Are at the Heads of the Many Departments.
 
A Glance at the Art Room and the Mechanical Part of Publishing a Morning Daily.
 
 
  Horace Greeley
The modern newspaper man will tell you that when Horace Greeley was doing the work of an apprentice in the little newspaper office at East Poultney, Vt., but little was known of journalism as it is seen at the present day. The boy printer strolled into the city of New York one day five years later, and with $10 in his pocket he commenced life as a journalist. His energy succeeded and 40 years later when Horace Greeley laid down his pencil for the last time and passed from among the army of fellow-workers around him, he left behind a monument of his building that told more eloquently than words of the wonderful progress that had been made in four decades in the newspaper world. Fifteen years have passed since Greeley died, and even the great advance that he saw has been eclipsed. The newspaper of today is a marvel. The reader who sits at his breakfast table in the morning and lays before him the reflex of a world’s doings, seldom remarks as to the enterprise, the money and the system that have been required to place it there. An Emperor in another country dies at midnight. At 7 o’clock in the morning the great army of newspaper readers in America know of the fact, and not only that but before them is a picture vividly drawn of the final scenes around and near the death bed. How was it done? The telegraph and cable played their part; but it was the perfect system that has been completed for the transmission and gathering of news that supplied the facts. All over Europe are stationed keen newspaper correspondents, who cooperate with the press bureaus or their newspaper, as the case may be. The general news of the country is gathered by bureaus known as the Associated Press and United Press. They are syndicates of newspapers who employ agents or reporters in every city in the country to gather news and report to the main offices in Chicago and New York, just as the reporter gathers news for a paper, except that nothing is sent that will not be of general interest the country over or in localities. From the general offices the news is sent to papers all over the country who are entitled to it after paying a large sum for the service.
 
The enterprise displayed in gathering some of the news can never be told. In some instances it amounts to heroism. This is especially true along the coast where only a brave man can act at the time of a terrible storm which is accompanied by wreckage. It is heroism of another sort that prompts the newspaper correspondent to invade the yellow fever district, that readers of the newspaper may know of the scenes of misery in the infected region. The news must be had, and there are hundreds of papers enterprising enough to get it, and men of nerve ready to undertake the most hazardous task.
 
 
 

The "most popular man of all" at a great newspaper was the business manager, whose desk was apparently home to bags of cash.

 

And what a product the newspaper is! The common eight-page paper that one casts carelessly aside is a book of 250 pages, and made in a night! It costs 5 cents, and is the reading book of the world. Millions scan it every day who never look on other print. In the United States the newspapers are read every year by over 8,000,000,000 people. Its wonderful influence is told in these figures.
 
In a brief statement of how a newspaper is made there is no place for a discussion of what a newspaper should be. In a mechanical way the newspaper office is the greatest workshop of the age, and nowhere is such system seen as within its precincts from the time the work begins each day until the last paper has been taken from the press and passed to the carrier, mail clerk or newsboy.
 
The TRIBUNE tells its readers in this issue how a newspaper is made, and pictures in detail how the machinery of human minds works in conjunction in the accomplishment of the task. There must be no jarring. The managing editor is an authority. The city editor and night editor are subordinate to him, but each have as important duties. The staff of reporters are under the control of the city editor, but they have individual responsibilities. As the rolls of copy come in from the telegraph room and the city editor’s room, it is sent into the composing room, where a large force is engaged in putting it in type. The average issue of the TRIBUNE is eight pages, containing 56 columns. Every night for such an issue there are picked up from the type cases 458,528 letters! Before the work of the next night begins those letters are replaced in the cases, each letter in its box, thus making the handling of 917,056 letters, singly, necessary each day to issue a copy of the TRIBUNE. An occasional error appears that has escaped the eye of the proof readers, and the “blunder” is criticized. Think what it is to put those half million pieces of metal in place every night, and it would not seem surprising if there were 10 errors where there is one.
 
And so the work is carried on. There is the advertising to be cared for in the counting room. The numerous “want ads” must be properly classified. How is it done? By the same system that prevails in the office from the editorial room to the press room, where the great rolls of paper are transformed into neat folios that are hurried away to outgoing trains and carriers. Not a train must be missed and not a subscriber must be deprived of his paper at breakfast. The hands of the clock in every room tell when each task must be finished, and there can be no deviation. If important news is coming or comes later than the closing hour it must be told in an extra.
 
The fast press in Greeley’s time has been transformed into an almost perfect machine. From its delivery pass 30,000 complete, folded papers an hour! There is probably a still great advance to come, but whether it comes or not, the modern newspaper office is a systematic workshop that accomplishes its work with ease when compare with even 20 years ago.
 
[There follows a description of the COUNTING ROOM, “The Business End of the Modern Paper.” We’ll skip straight to the brains of the operation.]
 
THE EDITOR-IN-CHIEF.
 
A Hard Working Man Who is Popularly Supposed to Live in Luxury.
 
One of the most important parts of the machinery of a great daily newspaper is the editorial department, which on account of the retiring modesty and unassuming manners of its members is least understood by the general mass of newspaper readers whose opinions on all public questions are formed by these midnight moulders of mental clay. It is this department which establishes the character of a paper and gives it its standing in the community.
 
Well and brightly conducted, the editorial department can make a poor newspaper popular and influential; just as, carelessly and weakly conducted, it can depreciate the value of the stock of a really first-class newspaper and plough deep furrows of care on the forehead of the business manager.
 
The foremost figure in this department is labeled the editor-in-chief. His position is both managerial and menial, because he is the nominal head of what is termed the “upstairs part” of a paper, just as the business manager is the nominal head of the “downstairs part,” and because his sense of duty compels him to do anything that any employe of the paper has left undone. As a general rule the editor-in-chief owns stock in the paper and maintains the relation of partner to the business manager. On account of the possession of stock he is allowed to draw a fat salary and to put on airs which are not permitted to those under him. Unfortunately for him he appears different to every one who comes in contact with him, and consequently varies in different minds from a hard working man of keen and comprehensive intellect to a brainless dude who does nothing but draw his salary and smoke expensive cigars in a gorgeously appointed office.
 
To the reporter the editor-in-chief seems a man of brilliant attainments, great good fortune and wonderful erudition, who sits in a superbly fashioned sanctum and dispenses advice to the leading magnates of the town, who go to him with uncovered heads to secure the favor of his opinion on all abstruse matters affecting their respective lines of business, whether they be railroad presidents, bankers, lawyers, real estate operators or clergymen. To the managing editor, his right bower and first lieutenant, he seems a rather necessary evil, who assumes all the credit for the good things in the paper and has a disagreeable way of criticizing all the workings of the news departments in a manner uncalled for and unnecessary.
 
To the business manager the editor is the embodiment of reckless extravagance, and a constant menace of ruin and disaster – a man who thinks no more of a $50,000 libel suit than he does of a $50 advertising contract, and who insists on expensive features and long special dispatches, as if special writers wrote for fun and telegraph tolls had gone out of style.
 
To his two or three associate editors, who fill most of the editorial space with careful and conscientious work, he seems a pleasant office fixture, who generally has on his desk a box of Havanas and who does not do much but talk real estate with long-winded bores, to their great annoyance, suggests live topics to them, which they have already discussed a number of times editorially, and occasionally write a vapid editorial, the authorship of which they are very much afraid will be attributed to them by their respective circles of admiring acquaintances.
 
 
  An editor in chief's gorgeously appointed office.
By the general public, the editor-in-chief is looked upon as a man who reports sermons and prize fights, who only goes to entertainments for the purpose of getting items “to fill his paper with,” who sets the type, edits the telegraph copy, reads proof, makes up the forms and then turns the crank on the press. His partner is supposed to write the advertisements and collect the bills.
 
But as a matter of fact, the editor-in-chief of a metropolitan daily is a man whose shoulders bear a heavy burden of responsibility. He is obliged to follow the current of discussion on public matters throughout the country, and must at the same time make himself master of all the intricacies of every local question. He has to decide quickly and correctly on the method of treatment of every matter of importance that arrives, and must investigate even the most technical matters with the utmost care in order that his utterances may be intelligent and to the point.
 
A part of his time is taken up in consultations with the managing editor about the advisability of securing certain matters of news or procuring certain features, while other portions have to be given to the base and sordid considerations of the business office in company with his partner. Besides this he has to find and assign subjects for editorials to his associate editors and then carefully read the copy they turn in, and when necessary mould the sentiments expressed so that they will agree with the policy of the paper. Not a small portion of the editor’s time is taken up by his correspondence, which is always extensive, and by receiving and conversing with the large number of people who call on him to suggest improvements, impart state secrets and valuable ideas, criticize editorials, solicit subscriptions to manufacturing enterprises and charities, and talk at length aimlessly on a thousand and one topics which are of no interest to either talker or talkee.
 
And so his wearisome but fascinating grind goes on from day to day. His hours run from 10 in the morning until 1 or 2 the next morning, and if he is ever idle he doesn’t know it. He is always busy and always occupied and always working, either as a student or as a teacher.
 
[Next up: THE MANAGING EDITOR, THE NIGHT EDITOR and THE CITY EDITOR.]
 

 

May 2, 1877: Our filthy, squalid and 'unsewered’ metropolis

Posted by: Ben Welter Updated: October 18, 2012 - 7:22 PM
 
There’s a day devoted to just about everything, worthy or not, from World Braille Day (Jan. 4) to Pi Day (March 14), from National Cancer Survivors Day (the first Sunday in June) to National Cat Day (Oct. 29). But as far as I can tell, there’s no Sewage Treatment Awareness Day. A pity. Technological advances in the handling of human waste have saved millions of lives worldwide and made urban life far more pleasant than it was 140 years ago. 
 
As noted in the Tribune editorial below, nearly every dwelling in Minneapolis had its own cesspool in the 1870s. Thanks to sandy soil, the decaying contents of these containers commonly commingled and formed “a substratum of liquid poison” underneath the rapidly growing city. The Tribune urged the City Council to address the resulting filth and squalor.
 
Officials took heed, and by the end of the century, more than 120 miles of sewer lines were carrying wastewater from homes and businesses directly to the Mississippi River. You can imagine the impact: According to the Minneapolis Department of Public Works, “floating islands of sewage solids, scum on the water surface, and an abundance of dead fish” marred the river. The stench was noticeable more than two blocks away, and typhoid outbreaks were frequent. Minneapolis continued to dump untreated wastewater into the Mississippi until 1938, when the sewage treatment plant at Pig’s Eye Lake, downriver from St. Paul, began cleaning up the mess.
 

THE INVITATION TO DEATH.

 
We desire to call the attention of the proper authorities to a concern of the most vital importance to the health and future well-being of the citizens of Minneapolis. It is a lamentable fact that there are so few sewers in the city that we can almost say with truth that Minneapolis is an undrained and unsewered metropolis. It is a well settled fact among scientists that all other provisions for the health and comfort of a city are subordinate to the one vital desideratum of adequate sewerage. It should be as much a matter of concern to afford the body politic the means of cleanliness and sweetness, as the individual body. The city should no more squat down in the midst of its accumulating filth and squalor, than an individual, imitating the habits and nature of a pig, should do so. There should be conduits threading every thoroughfare, to serve as cleansing and renewing purifiers, and insuring the atmosphere against the fetid and poisonous miasmas arising from ten thousand separate and individual stenches.
 
It is the misfortune of Minneapolis that a perfect system of drainage is of more consequence to her than to almost any other city of our acquaintance. Its soil is sandy and porous to an unusual degree, and the liquids percolate through it with the utmost facility. When we add to this condition the fact that almost every dwelling in the city containing a sink, a bath-room, or a water closet, is drained into a cess-pool on the premises; that these cess-pools mingle their fetid and decaying contents with each other, and form a substratum of liquid poison under the residence portion of the whole city, and that their deadly exhalations, taking the form of gases, pour up through the loose and porous soil, mingle with the atmosphere, and are taken into the lungs of the people, the wonder is no longer that this is one of the unhealthiest cities for children in summer in the country, but that even adults are able to survive the noxious poisons which they are continually inhaling. In several residence blocks with which we are familiar there are as many as a dozen of these murderous cess-pools. Distributed between them are often as many wells, in which these cess-pools hasten to mingle their contents, and that portion of them which the people do not take into their lungs from the pipes conducting to them, they draw up from the wells and drink. The picture is not a pleasant one to contemplate, and it is all the more revolting because it is true. The hot season is again upon us, and we speak as one with experience when we say that unless something is done by the council to obviate this distressing condition of affairs by the adoption of some adequate system of drainage, parents having children will be confronted with the unpleasant necessity of taking them during the season of exposure to some more hospitable and congenial clime.
 
Construction of a sewer line in the new Minneapolis-St. Paul Sanitary District in December 1934. Can anyone identify the location? (Photo courtesy of Minnesota Historical Society)  

 

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