Images of the Month Gallery
June 2002
In what we sometimes refer to casually as "THE GOOD OLD DAYS," some things were not even close to being as good as they are now. The process of garbage collection and disposal in New Orleans is one of those things. Prior to 1900 boats picked up the garbage from various garbage wharves along the river. The boats simply moved out to the middle of the Mississippi and dumped their cargoes into the muddy water. A rather nasty "solution" to the problem.

After the turn of the century various methods of disposal were utilized. Some of the refuse was hauled by special train or by wagon to undeveloped, low-lying sections of the city for use as land fill. Some of the "choicer" garbage--that which came from large hotels, for example--was collected by private concerns and fed to local hogs. Dead animals such as horses and mules, unfortunately quite common in the days before the automobile, were collected and disposed of by a local rendering works. It was not until 1916 that the city's first incinerator opened for business in Algiers. The "Best Bank," at least, was able to enjoy a relatively odor-free and fly-free waste disposal system.

During this time garbage collection and disposal were handled by the Department of Public Works and later by the Division of Public Works withing the Department of Public Property. By 1919 Public Works employed more than 500 men and operated a bit more than 150 garbage wagons. Collections were made daily in the central portion of the city and somewhat less frequently in the outskirts.

This month's images document the processes of garbage collection and disposal in New Orleans not long after the use of incinerators had spread across the river from Algiers to the rest of the city. We're not sure exactly sure when these photographs were taken but the year 1930 seems likely, for that was the year that the City accepted five newly constructed incinerators. The originals exist in the City Archives in the form of glass lantern slides, twenty-six in number. We scanned twelve of the slides and present the results here.

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