Washington D.C., Pigstye

I found this story in Jeff Kacirk's "Forgotten English"  calendar (September 19, 2014).

"In a letter written on this date in 1840, a French diplomat known as the Chavalier de Bacourt offered these remarks about his new home in America's capital:

"'The nights are so noisy that one can scarcely sleep. There is a continual uproar, the reason being that the inhabitants all own cows and pigs but no stables, and these animals wander about all day and night through the city and go to their owners' houses only in the morning and evening to be fed. The women milk their cows on the sidewalk and sprinkle the passerby. The nocturnal wanderings of these beasts create an infernal racket in which they are joined by dogs and cats. An American to whom I expressed my astonishment at this state of things, and particularly at the freedom allowed the pigs in all the towns of the United States, said that nothing was more convenient or conductive to health, that without the aid of these animals the towns would be encumbered with filth of all kinds."

I assume the American in the story means that the pigs eat garbage and thereby reduce the amount of rotting food and general mess around town. Although one has to consider the amount of poop littering the streets. I know that in New York around 1900, people started switching to motor cars purely because the horse poo in the streets had gotten out of control and the volume was more than the street cleaners could handle. I can't imagine conditions in 1840 in D.C. were that much better, especially when you put roaming cows into the mix. As a former farm girl, let me tell you that cow poo is not exactly easy to clean up–certainly not as easy as horse poo. The streets there must have been ASS-NASTY.

So picture that the next time you watch Scandal.

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