Prior to the reform of sanitation, sewage systems did not exist, and tenement houses lacked running water. Cleanliness and hygiene were at an all time low and disease spread throughout the city. In the city of New York, nearly 40,000 people die because of these diseases. The cramped quarters that most of the working class and immigrants found themselves in were the root of most sanitation problems. Poor ventilation in the industrialized and polluted areas was common. Sewage and garbage was dumped into the streets and easily accessible of all inhabitants. Children living and playing in filth. There was simply no other standard of living.
Actions of the reform included the work of Colonel George Waring, a civil war veteran and legendary sewer engineer. He is the head of New York's sanitation department. He recruits a sanitation army of 2,000 in white uniforms. These workers are labeled as "white ducks" throughout New York. He establishes the first recycling programs in New York, the tons of filth that ones filled the streets is now recycled and ash is accumulated in landfills. Organic waste of the human and animal nature is boiled down into oil and grease instead of being simply disposed of. Waring and his men clean 433 miles of street.
The significance and impact of this reform was the ultimate decline in death rates, and the improvement overall of water quality. Thousands of lives are saved and spared because of this reform. Only 16 year after Colonel Waring, half of all the majors cities of America contain sewers. By 1907 every large nation, not just America has these sewer systems. In 1909, America contains 420,049 miles of sewers overall. This shows that the impact of Colonel Waring had a positive impact not just in America, but to the entire world as well.
Caption: In this photograph, a sanitation worker, or "white duck", under the command of Colonel Waring in his white uniform is seen cleaning up the noticeably cleaner streets of New York City. What this photo tells us about the progressive era is the effect of the improvement of sanitation and how much of an impact it had on the population.
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