Her environmentalist monograph focuses upon how sanitary professionals arose to articulate olfactory detection as a means to counter the effluvia emanating from the back alleys of the Market Revolution. Smell Detectives follows the nineteenth-century Americans who used their noses to make sense of the sanitary challenges caused by rapid urban and industrial growth. As environmental history, Smell Detectives is an essential read, offering new contexts for a field in search of freshly radical tones to combat environmental degradation. Melanie Kiechle examines nuisance complaints, medical writings, domestic advice, and myriad discussions of what constituted fresh air, and argues that nineteenth-century city dwellers, anxious about the air they breathed, attempted to create healthier cities by detecting and then mitigating the most menacing odors. Rather than limiting her focus to smell detection, Ms.
Smell Detectives is a bottom-up history that is necessary to truly grasp the evolution of cities. You can change your cookie settings at any time. This book is a much more grounded examination of the period when people lived, managed, and grappled with daily life in a smellier time. The author also shows how visual media, especially newspaper illustrations, contributed to a change in the way people perceived the environmental dangers of bad odors, a change that ultimately undercut the war against bad smells. Opened my nose to un-sniffed areas of history as well as how I understand my own environment. With grace and verve, Kiechle explains their reasoning and their legacy. In fact, Kiechle argues that engineers justified their new status in part by claiming authority over environmental phenomena, including bad smells.
One, a strange maple-sugar scent that drifted over New York City in 2005, was nothing more than an unusual odor wafting from a candy factory. She documents where the smells came from and what people thought of them. But people lived in proximity to slaughter houses, burgeoning chemical factories, exposed animal carcasses, garbage, manure, gas works, fat renderers. Wellcome Collection Chemists were a vital part of this assault against dangerous odor: they used chemical analysis to bring quantitative force and the persuasive power of expertise to documenting, tracing, and eliminating terrible, threatening smells. Preus Museum In one notorious episode in 1873 the sides of houses in East Cambridge, Massachusetts, changed color overnight. Kiechle shows that many features that might seem incidental or even decorative about city life—from medical statistics to blossoming trees along city boulevards—were direct responses to foul stench. Medical theories in the nineteenth century assumed that foul odors caused disease and that overcrowded cities-filled with new and stronger stinks-were synonymous with disease and danger.
Nasty odors were the first clue to bad airs that could kill children, weaken laborers, or cripple a family. The Civil War chapters are the most horrific, but because of the detail, are the most riveting and hard to stop reading. Kiechle bookends her historical detective work with descriptions of present-day smells that have alarmed American cities. But as more people moved to the cities, olfactory assault became a fact of life in 19th-century urban America. The book discusses Civil War camps, which had population densities higher than any inner city, and their overwhelming smells.
We sophisticated, modern Americans do our best to ward off suspect odors. And how did odors matter in the formation of a modern environmental consciousness? In some cases it worked; the movement to place cemeteries outside city limits, for example, and rudimentary industrial zoning began to take hold. The subject cries out for more social analysis, rather than simple recitation of what people did to protect themselves and their families from the stinking reality of urban life. This work is both academic and enlightening. But the sources of offending odors proved difficult to pinpoint. Setting a bouquet by the door might today seem like no more than classy design, but at the time placing scented flowers by the entrance to a house or planting them in front window boxes were medical interventions meant to neutralize infective odors streaming in from packed city streets. Learning to Smell Again: Managing the Air between the Civil War and Germ Theory 7.
I would recommend this book for anyone interested in urban, environmental, or nineteenth century history as this book provides a new take on all three of those areas. Smell likewise shaped medical practice in the military. You can change your cookie settings at any time. The creation of city health boards introduced new conflicts between complaining citizens and the officials in charge of the air. Very readable, even for people outside of academia.
Kiechle takes us into their world. They, too, began trying to wield some municipal political power. Chemists, reformers, mothers, cartoonists, politicians, physicians, generals, bureaucrats, and industrialists struggled to trace and abate stink to keep Americans healthy. Civil War officers demanded new kinds of tents that would roll up from the bottom to allow healthful fresh air to flow freely: this was no nicety but a crucial means of keeping soldiers in fighting shape. If a bit of body spray is good, surely a good, long burst will be better? The results are illuminating and extend the field of environmental history in new and fascinating directions. Griscom, a city inspector enduring sickening odors on his inspections but not having the tools to enforce improvements. People walked around with scented handkerchiefs, cut lemons, cigars, and heavy perfume.
Melanie Kiechle examines nuisance complaints, medical writings, domestic advice, and myriad discussions of what constituted fresh air, and argues that nineteenth-century city dwellers, anxious about the air they breathed, attempted to create healthier cities by detecting and then mitigating the most menacing odors. This book fits the bill and connects the concept of smell to wider topics of nineteenth century history. . The book contains many names, but not many details about the people who, pre-germ theory, worked to ameliorate real urban suffering. Kiechle Foreword by Paul S. By the end of the 19th century smoke itself was proven harmful, as chemists taught Americans about the health impacts of industrial pollution. The results are illuminating and extend the field of environmental history in new and fascinating directions.